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  • Writer's pictureLuna Oiwa

Concept to Creation - The Build Reuse Wiki and Q+A Forum

Updated: May 18, 2023

Sometime around early 2022, I became a co-founder and co-chair of the newly formed Build Reuse Data and Policy Committee. This committee was formed around a brainstorming meeting in March 2021 and a survey sent out to the Build Reuse membership in April 2021 about needs relating to data and policy. Some topics of interest identified were:

  • Convincing policymakers to explore or adopt deconstruction policies, such as ordinances, diversion targets, etc.

  • Advancing deconstruction as a climate resilience tool

  • Advancing deconstruction as a waste reduction tool

  • Advancing deconstruction as a preservation tool

  • Advancing deconstruction as a workforce development tool

  • Advancing deconstruction as a disaster mitigation tool

  • Quantifying the embodied carbon benefits of deconstruction and reuse

  • Collecting reuse center information: locations, sales volume, tonnage, square footage, resources, etc.

  • Tracking reuse sales data

  • Quantifying building reuse potential

  • Evaluating the efficacy and outcomes of workforce development programs

All very excellent points. But I had a lot of questions on how to go about achieving these brainstormed goals.

  • What resources could we develop that would address these topics and be useful for people of all different backgrounds (reuse retailers, policymakers, researchers, etc.)?

  • How do we pick what to prioritize given the limited time that this entirely-volunteer-run group can realistically offer?

I struggled to wrap my head around this. When it came time to lead the first Data + Policy meeting in March 2022, I decided to turn the meeting into an ideation workshop to confirm whether people were still interested in the same topics as a year ago (they were!). I rearranged the ideas from that March 2022 workshop, the March 2021 brainstorming meeting, and the April 2021 survey into flowcharts and other diagrams, and from there my co-chairs and I settled on two main projects.

The first project was a “Statement of Research Needs” - a consolidated list of research topics that Build Reuse members have indicated they would like to see prioritized by research entities. This list was primarily written by my wonderful co-chair Tom and is now posted on the Build Reuse website (see here, under "Policy, Advocacy, and Data Committee"). The idea is that researchers studying related topics will be able to use this document to start a conversation with Build Reuse. Build Reuse would then potentially offer its resources and connections, and in turn benefit from being more connected with the research community and familiar with existing building material reuse data.

But what I want to focus on here is the second idea – a Wiki paired with a Q+A forum.

The building material reuse community has a lot going on – webinars, conferences, phone calls, Zoom calls, organized networks, regularly scheduled check-ins, chance encounters, newsletters, and even some good-old-fashioned in-person coffee chats. We share resources through word of mouth, through emails, and chat boxes. Because the community is still relatively small, if you spend enough time in the space you can get to know all the key players (or you’ll at least know someone who can connect you to the key players). But it gets difficult trying to keep up with all of this. My own experience in the space got me thinking about ways to better manage the constant stream of information flowing in this growing network.

My vision of a “Wiki” is a Wikipedia-like database in which reuse and deconstructed-related information is crowd-sourced and organized so that the information within it is as accessible as possible. This Wiki would be paired with a Q+A forum – an online platform where people can ask and answer reuse and deconstruction-related questions. The idea is for the Q+A forum to provide individuals with a means of finding specific information that is not necessarily covered by the broad structure of the Wiki.

And how does this relate to data and policy? My thought here is that actually, a lot of the resources that people are looking for to make the case for deconstruction and reuse is already out there, floating somewhere on the internet – whether that be in a research study, online toolkit, informational video, interactive map, webpage of case studies, etc. The tricky part is making this information known and accessible so that they can be referenced on-demand.

I talked to people to gauge interest and input, looked into whether a tool like this already exists (not really), researched online platforms I could use to host the Wiki and forum, estimated costs, wrote up a summary of my findings and presented it to the Build Reuse Board, drafted content for the Wiki, and finally in December 2022 received approval from the Board that would cover the cost of piloting my platform of choice for one year. Since January 2023 I have been learning more about the tool, adding content, and onboarding a handful of people to test it out.

The platform I selected is called AllAnswered. Here is what our Wiki looks like so far:

And a sample post I created as part of the Q+A forum:

To encourage individuals and organizations to become Build Reuse members (so that we can collect member fees necessary to keep Build Reuse running!), the Wiki and forum will only be editable by Build Reuse members. I’m thinking next steps will be to clean up the Wiki to the point where it is ready for public viewing (at present the link is ready but the content is not), to create a brief AllAnswered training document and/or video, to add more editors, and to spread the word.

I love the positive feedback I have been receiving and am really hoping this will eventually help a lot of people in this community continue to do the important work they are doing. In the meantime - this should keep me busy for a while!

Here's a link to the Wiki if you are interested in exploring its current form:

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