National Treasure 2: Useful Waste

Blog  CONSTRUCT 2019

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD, October 9, 2019 – So a few months ago I decided to start up this operation of weaseling my way into getting free tickets to attend conferences around the country in exchange for writing dumb articles about them on a puppy-themed website.  It’s really an excuse to A) get to tell people “I’m out of town on official Pup business,” and B) stretch my creative muscles in the time-honored tradition of sneaking Taylor Swift references into my writing.  Not that I would ever, ever, ever, ever actually do such a thing.  Like, ever.  But between the lines of these shenanigans come the occasional bits of useful information – what some would call a…’topic’.  In the case of these national conferences, this topic is generally intended to share something amazing that our colleagues in Portland are doing – that they’re being recognized for on a national stage – yet that we completely take for granted locally.

Never is this more true than when it involves the Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) at the Portland State University School of Architecture.  A talented, innovative group of individuals, they never cease to be doing cool stuff, and the AEC industry around the country never ceases to show up in droves* to learn about the latest and greatest that this gem of a group is up to.  I love writing about this crew – they make it so easy, the articles practically write themselves.

*Where did the phrase “show up in droves” come from?  What’s a droves?!?

CSI CONSTRUCT 2019 - Rebecca Taylor

#LADYBOSS Rebecca Taylor and her Squad.

Look What They Made Me Do

The reason I say that these articles write themselves is because, in fact, I have already written them.  Back in Las Vegas in June, we traveled to the AIA Conference on Architecture to hear about two initiatives led by CPID.  In What Happened in Vegas 3: Community Connections, we covered CPID Director and Professor at Portland State University, Sergio Palleroni, as he shared his program, WITH Sacramento.  The program was a studio where students explored how to utilize bus stops/shelters as ways to address other problems in under-served neighborhoods in Sacramento, California.

In What Happened in Vegas 5: Of Synergy, Shelter, and Concert Stages, we covered Todd Ferry, Senior Research Associate and Faculty Fellow, Center for Public Interest Design; Joanna T. Do, Property Manager, Department of County Assets, Multnomah County; Scott Mooney, Senior Associate, SRG Partnership, Inc.; and Travis Bell, Associate Professor in Architecture, Portland State University.  This crew discussed the history, story, and lessons learned through the CPID Sleeping PODS program.  The original sleeping pods – small, enclosed shelters meant to help address Portland’s houseless population crisis – were built by a myriad of volunteer Portland-area architects and designers before being installed in the Kenton Women’s Village.  From there, the program evolved to the creation of what are called S.A.F.E. Pods, designed by Portland architecture firm SRG Partnership and built in coordination with the PSU Design+Build Studio, who designed their 2017 annual Pickathon Treeline Stage to be deconstructed into parts later used to build the S.A.F.E. Pods.

You know what?  That was a really dense paragraph.  This group is doing SO much, and it’s SO interconnected, it’s really difficult to summarize into any kind of cohesive set of sentences.  If you’re up to speed on everything I just mentioned, please continue reading.  If you’re confused like I am right now, please take a minute to read the full What Happened in Vegas 5: Of Synergy, Shelter, and Concert Stages article before moving on.

Julia Mollner

#LADYBOSS Julia Mollner

Wildest Dreams

These days, as the PODS program continues, it’s spurred a spin-off program of sorts.  Championed by local leader, CPID Fellow of Practice, and friend of Design Pup, Julia Mollner, a new program is underway, titled “Useful Waste: Re-Purposing Construction Mock-Ups.”

The idea is simple – on large construction sites, it’s commonplace to build full-size mock-ups, or portions of a building, in order to test material assemblies, ensure water tightness, and fine-tune the overall envelope assembly before it’s applied to the actual building.  Once the mock-up serves its purpose and passes the tests, it gets tossed.  SO, Julia asked the question:

“What if we re-used these structures?  What could they be re-purposed as?  Shelter for the houseless?  Public restrooms?  Bus pavilions?  Tiny libraries?”  The possibilities were endless.

Julia and her team have been hard at work turning this idea into a reality.  During CONSTRUCT 2019, Julia, along with thesis students Rebecca Taylor and Lauren Chamberlain, presented their work to a national audience of members from all across the AEC industry.

4th & Montgomery Building Mock-up

4th & Montgomery Building Mock-up. Courtesy PSU CPID.

…Ready for It?

The crew told the story of their work – from seeking material donations to working with architects and contractors from the early stages to design the mockups to be disassembled and re-used.  They shared their visions – seeing mock-ups and envisioning what they could become in a future life.  Indeed, they asked the audience to do the same in an exercise following the presentation.  They shared the challenges they discovered related to communication and logistics, as well as the successes they’ve had in all they’ve learned and discovered along the way.

The story was shared through the lens of a case study project of theirs – a mock-up coming from the new 4th & Montgomery Building, designed by Portland architecture firm SRG Partnership and built by Andersen Construction.  All sub-contractors on the project agreed to donate a little time and materials towards the effort, and anything that remained was covered through a donation from the Andersen Foundation.

The conclusion?  It took a lot of work and a lot of coordination, and with the owner, architect, and contractor on board from the get-go…it was feasible!  They made it happen!  Not ones to rest on their laurels (yannys?,) the team meticulously documented the process, and has since created a Mock-Up Design Guidebook, an open-source guide for anyone interested in re-purposing construction mock-ups.  A call to action was recently shared by Mollner:

“As we are continuing our volunteer efforts in Portland, Oregon, we want to reach out and let you know we are here to support you in your community initiatives as well. We are happy to be a resource if you are considering avenues to re-purpose mock-ups or divert construction waste in your local community, and we can help facilitate connections or provide support for local implementation in other cities/towns around the country, who are facing similar issues to us here in Portland. We see this initiative as a valuable way the AEC community can support community efforts, while promoting healthy environments.”

Lauren Chamberlain

#LADYBOSS Lauren Chamberlain begins an audience exercise following the presentation.

You Belong with CPID

As I said at the top of this article, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening in Portland, and sometimes we need to go to Maryland to learn about it.  How incredible it is that we have Julia and her #LADYBOSS #SQUAD, the Center for Public Interest Design, and our Portland CSI Chapter in town – right here under our noses – making an impact nationwide.

This crew is just getting started.  With two successfully re-purposed mockups under their belt as of this writing, and with the recent release of the Guidelines, the momentum is just starting to build.  And you can be part of it – you don’t even need to fly to Maryland to do it!!  Just check out the links below to learn more about the program, and learn how you can get involved in the effort:

As this crew continues to innovate and share their story in Portland-area events, we’ll continue to share them on our Design Pup Design Calendar.  Follow the calendar, or subscribe to our weekly newsletter here to stay in the loop.

About the CONSTRUCT 2019 Article Series

Portland Design Pup traveled to National Harbor, Maryland for CONSTRUCT 2019 this past October 9th-11th to explore the influence that Portland architects, engineers, contractors, and designers are having on the national AEC scene. We attended 7 sessions led by Portlanders, as well as the investiture ceremony for the 2019 Class of Fellows, which included Portland CSI member Cherise Lakeside. We will be sharing images and recaps of each event in a 3 part series of articles, of which this is the second.

About CONSTRUCT 2019

CONSTRUCT is an AEC educational program and exhibition that has the goal of bringing together the different disciplines within the construction industry to help improve the future of the built environment. Breaking down the barriers between the different players within the construction process allows for a more collaborative work environment. CONSTRUCT is the place to share the latest in standards and best practices, industry trends, and emerging technologies. Join Construction Architects, Designers, Specifiers, Engineers, Project Managers, Contractors, Construction Managers, Estimators, Owners, Product Representatives, and Manufacturers for cutting-edge, solutions-driven learning opportunities.

About the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)

Founded in 1948, CSI is a national association of more than 8,000 experts in building construction and the materials used therein. We are dedicated to improving the communication of construction information through:

  • A diversified membership base of allied professionals involved in the creation and management of the built environment. Join us!
  • Continuous development and transformation of standards and formats.
  • Education and certification of professionals to improve project delivery processes.
  • Creation of practice tools to assist users throughout the facility life-cycle.
[Our mission is] to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.

Cover image courtesy PSU CPID.  All other images courtesy Timothy Niou Photography unless noted otherwise.  Note: This post is sponsored in part by Portland CSI, and originally posted on Portland Design Pup.  It is used with permission elsewhere by Seattle Design Pup, Nashville Design Pup, and Portland CSI.