Reuse Centers: Ways to Optimize Partnerships Series – Curriculum Design – by Sara Badiali

Curriculum Design is the second of in a series of five articles about partnership optimization for the building material reuse community. 


Reuse Centers: Ways to Optimize Partnerships Series

One of the benefits of starting the Reclamation Administration is that I get to see how reuse centers optimize partnerships within the community.

Like churches or pubs, reuse centers can be a pivotal gathering place. If done well, the physical detritus of the community flows through a reuse center. Neighbors stop and talk with each other over finds and projects, suggestions are made and advice is given. I’ve seen reuse centers inspire creativity that transcend individual projects and develop into community initiatives.  Material with history motivates people to collaborate and build both projects and relationships.


Curriculum Design

Schools and reuse centers are natural partners.  Before leaving the reuse center I where I worked I was collaborating with interior design professor Amanda Davis of Portland Community College.  We were developing a curriculum for students on how to design with reclaimed materials.  We were focusing on the importance of scouting materials before designing, and frequenting reuse centers to establish types of inventories.

In other words, to design well with reclaimed materials go early and often, to get to know your reuse center well. Then match your client’s needs based on your material expertise.

For example tile was always abundant where I worked, so a student could discuss saving money with a frugal client, or selling a mosaic style to a creative client.  Her design class would be required to spend half the day volunteering at the reuse center to handle the materials and see how they are categorized.  The rest of the day would be spent in a design charrette working with the materials they handled earlier in the day.

This keeps the students on site at the center learning about materials.  It also benefits the center not only with volunteers for half a day, but with a generation of designers confident in reuse.

Educational immersion is an excellent learning technique, which produces exceptional results in students.  The effect is professionals returning to the business they are emotionally bonded to, in this case the reuse center.

The students from Amanda Davis’s design class went on to win the design competition at the 2013 Portland Home and Garden using reclaimed materials.


Next Up: House as Showcase

The Reclamation Administration is a great databank for reuse centers collaborative partnerships.  There are a few that stand out as particularly successful models.  Partnerships are an excellent way to get exposure, marketing, materials, and revenue, while supporting the local community.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series on partnering with empty or blighted houses to showcase hard to display materials.