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  • Luna Oiwa

My August 2022 Updates

The months have flown by. I get caught up in my day-to-day and it’s helpful to look back and reflect on the bigger picture. Here are the highlights:


Build Reuse


I am still very much involved in the non-profit Build Reuse, a national network of individuals who are each championing the reuse of building materials in some way or another. In fact, I am now on the Board of Directors and have committed to staying on the board for the next three years.


Within Build Reuse, I am also a co-founder and co-chair of the Data and Policy Committee. One of my biggest reasons for joining the Board was to create better alignment between the Data and Policy Committee and Build Reuse’s organizational goals.


At present, the Data and Policy Committee is headed in the direction of pursuing the following projects:

  • Statement of Research Needs – A consolidated list of reuse-related research topics that Build Reuse members would love for researchers to prioritize. My co-chairs and I are in the process of discussing next steps (identifying which research entities to reach out to, potential sources of funding, etc.) with the Build Reuse Board.

  • Build Reuse Forum and/or Wiki Database – From my observations, one of the greatest challenges to promoting reuse more widely is the difficulty that members of the reuse community face in keeping each other informed. Two ideas I’ve been toying with to try to tackle this challenge are to (1) set up a forum where people can ask and answer questions; and (2) set up a Wikipedia-like database.

Also within Build Reuse, I am in my second year serving on the Conference Committee and of late have been reaching out to potential speakers for this year’s conference (which will take place virtually in mid-October!).


Lastly, a couple of individuals have reached out to me through Build Reuse asking about volunteer opportunities. It can be surprisingly difficult to match individuals’ interests with existing project work, but I love the enthusiasm behind these inquiries and have been keeping these conversations in the back of my mind.


Miscellaneous Other Initiatives


NYC-Building-Material-Reuse-Policy-Advocacy-Group [1] – This is a small, organically-formed group in NYC that meets monthly over after-work beers (to get a sense of who’s part of it, see one of my previous blog posts... although we have added a few members since then!). In the past few months, we have chatted with folks who have helped shed light on what it would take to develop and propose reuse-related policy in NYC. One such individual was a representative from the demolition company Alba, and another was Former New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides, who was crucial in the passage of a sweeping NYC law to reduce emissions from buildings (Local Law 97).



Recently, an individual reached out to me on LinkedIn to ask about the reuse landscape in NYC because she is taking on a Williamsburg project in which she is looking to salvage and reuse as much as possible. I connected her to the rest of the NYC group, and we actually got to visit the site this past week! We have yet to host a recap session or solidify next steps, but it is a very cool project that I am hoping we can continue to stay in the loop with (and that I can maybe continue to write about).












CR0WD NYS Group – This is a subgroup of CR0WD, the wonderful team that is drafting Ithaca’s deconstruction policy. Whereas CR0WD has a focus on Tompkins County and Central New York, the CR0WD NYS group looks to connect individuals throughout New York State. I attended a meeting this week and was introduced to a Cornell Master’s student conducting a study on the economic argument for reuse, learned of a deconstruction webinar hosted by the Preservation League of NYS, and heard brief updates on the status of the Ithaca deconstruction ordinance.


Reuse Ecosystem Map - This reuse database and map resource hosted by All for Reuse is the result of collaboration among the BuildingGreen peer workgroup, Building Product Ecosystems, and Joe Connell / Square Nail Consulting. I’ve been helping a bit with the manual data entry required for the first phase, which centers on reuse-related businesses across the nation. I’ve also been helping brainstorm a second phase that would capture all the reuse-related policy in the US in a similar format. Stay tuned for more on this.

Miscellaneous Conversations


I’m humbled to say that a number of individuals from all over the world have contacted me after reading this blog.

  • One individual from Korea who is currently a PhD candidate at Oregon State University reached out to ask whether I knew of anyone with data on costs associated with deconstruction. I introduced him to a few people who might and connected him with the Build Reuse Conference Committee when he expressed interest in that too.

  • Another PhD student studying in Switzerland reached out to ask whether I knew of anyone who might be able to help with an ambitious thesis she is working on. The gist of the project is to develop a database of building typologies for select regions of the US to better understand the value of material reuse. When she stopped by NYC, I met up with her over dinner. I also invited her to the Williamsburg site visit! I am highly curious to see the end product of her research.

  • The individual who reached out about the Williamsburg project is actually based in Italy and was there when we first got in contact.

  • One individual based in Mumbai wanted to chat about building material reuse in the context of India. She even expressed interest in writing her own blog on the topic!


Work


It’s been about a month since I started my new job! Whereas my previous role involved consulting on building certifications, in my current role I am focused on tracking the embodied carbon of materials in construction projects and consulting on design and materials changes that would reduce this embodied carbon [2].


As you might imagine, I switched jobs because I wanted my work to better align with my interest in materials. I am excited to gain more embodied carbon expertise and to devote more time exploring the kinds of topics I’ve been reading up on, writing about, and volunteering for.


Wrap-Up


That’s a lot of moving pieces!


My broader desire in doing all of this is to help bridge the conversation and form partnerships between the many large, influential companies across all industries who are now talking about embodied carbon and the passionate building material reuse businessowners and advocates I meet who are each doing admirable work within their own relatively small spheres (usually without nearly enough funding or other support). As with all things sustainability, the logistically complicated challenge of building material reuse is difficult to tackle without this kind of intentional collaboration.


A common theme in my life is that it’s hard learning to prioritize and to “find the time” for everything I want to be doing – but I’ve been moving forth with it day by day, email by email, one meaningful connection at a time :)




FOOTNOTES:

[1] Okay – if you have a better name suggestion for this group, please don’t hesitate to let me know.


[2] “Embodied carbon” refers to the emissions associated with building materials and the construction process. In contrast, “operational carbon” refers to the emissions associated with building energy use (emissions after the building has been constructed).

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