‘ReUsing’ building materials

Thanks to the non-profit organization The ReUse People, portions of the movie set for the blockbuster movie “Matrix: Reloaded” have been incorporated into low-income houses in Mexico.

Ted Reiff, the CEO of The ReUse People, spoke to an audience of about 75 people Tuesday afternoon at Kroon Hall. Reiff talked about reusing building materials in low-cost construction projects across the globe.

Wearing a green hard hat, Reiff began his talk by asking why people should salvage building materials for the future. He said reusing materials not only saves energy but also provides green job training and improves local standards of living.

“In 2006, we shipped hundreds of garage doors to Mexico,” Reiff said. “[Now] they are used as walls.”

Reiff said he founded The ReUse People in 1993 with a simple idea: deconstructing buildings and distributing the materials for reuse in places that lack necessary building materials, such as Mexico. The non-profit organization’s first major project was helping the victims of the December 1992 coastal storms in Delaware.

From there, The ReUse People stepped into larger projects: Now the organization has more than 2,000 doors and construction parts available for use at any given project. In fact, while demolishing a standard building, The ReUse People can salvage over 85 percent of the material, Reiff said.

The talk was followed by an informal session for interested listeners to ask further questions.

Audience opinions about The ReUse People’s possible future contributions was mixed: more than a dozen Yale students in attendance said they considered the non-profit organization a great internship opportunity for further training on the ReUse Solution, but five students interviewed said they questioned whether non-profit businesses such as The ReUse People could enter the market competitively and contribute to future construction projects.

“The idea is practical,” Gautam Kumar ’10 said. “But looking from an economical perspective, many home-owners and businesses will prefer demolishing building to paying the extra cash simply to be eco-friendly.”

Other listeners were more optimistic.

“It is inspiring to hear from people who are utilizing technology to recycle and ultimately aid those that are in need,” said Helen McCreary ’13.

Reiff was the first of four speakers that will be lecturing at Yale as a part of the an annual lecture series on business and environment, said Melanie Quigley, the program coordinator at the Center for Industrial Ecology. The Center is a part of the university’s Industrial Environmental Management (IEM) Program, which sponsored the talk. The IEM Committee, which is made up of 10 to 12 students from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, chose innovative recycling and the reuse of waste as this year’s lecture theme since it will become an important industry in the future, Quigley said.

“Buildings here in New Haven, for example, have very high deconstruction values,” Quigley said.

Quigley added that The ReUse People is appealing to Yale students and major companies alike — not only because it is a non-profit organization, but also because it is a training and certifying facility for the unemployed.

The 2010 Annual Lecture Series on Business and Environment will continue March 24 with Eden Bayer and Gavin McIntyre of bioproduct company Ecovative Design, who will talk about using mushrooms to transform waste.

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