ReStore: a building depot with an environmental twist

Nora Hertel

The second installment in the Green Architecture lecture series took place Feb. 2. John Weyenberg, executive director of the Fox Cities chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and George Elias, a member of the organization’s board of directors,
discussed their current environmentalist
efforts. Weyenberg gave an overview of Habitat for Humanity’s “green” construction initiatives, and Elias discussed the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a retail store offering used and surplus building materials. The presentation, titled “The ReStore Recycled Building Materials Project,” focused primarily on objectives and operations of the Appleton area ReStore.
Habitat for Humanity strives to provide energy-efficient housing
built to qualify with Energy Star, a government-backed energy efficiency program. According to their Web site, Energy Star requires “tight construction (reduced air infiltration), tight ducts, improved insulation, high performance windows, and energy efficient heating and cooling equipment.” Weyenberg said that Habitat maintains these green standards throughout the world and tries to go above and beyond the expected
efforts. Habitat also evaluates their building processes annually to keep their homes as energy-efficient
as possible.
The Habitat ReStore redistributes
used and overstocked building materials and therefore relieves some of the stress placed on landfills. The Appleton ReStore opened last September a couple miles east of campus at 3000 E. College Ave. Like most Habitat for Humanity efforts, the ReStore is run by volunteers and strives to serve the community and the environment.
With their goals outlined in three objectives, the organization
works to be affordable, to contribute all profit to Habitat for Humanity, and to remain environmentally
ReStore maintains affordable prices because volunteers provide labor and donated materials stock the shelves. The organization salvages materials from various sources and significantly reduces the price for resale. All of the profits go directly to Habitat. In its first four months, the Appleton ReStore averaged $20,000 in sales per month.
ReStore’s environmental efforts help reduce waste in area landfills. According to Elias, the ReStore in the Madison area diverted 800 tons from the landfill in the last three years. The recycling coordinators from the Appleton landfill work enthusiastically with the ReStore to limit volume of waste. ReStore also advocates “deconstruction over demolition,” and sends a volunteer crew to “cherry pick” through old buildings in search of reusable building materials. The Appleton ReStore has already picked through 15 facilities.
As Elias said in his presentation,
“It’s a win-win-win-win situation,
because donors, customers, the community and the environment
all benefit.” Donors receive tax write-offs and avoid dumping fees. Customers have access to quality materials at low prices. The community benefits because Habitat has the financial means to improve homes in the area. The environment benefits because waste is diverted from landfills.
The Appleton ReStore is off to a successful start and its supporters
have hopes for the future. Elias mentioned an Earth Day celebration
this spring that would include an exhibit at the Appleton Art Center with art made from “junk.” Both Weyenberg and Elias say they are enthusiastic about the green efforts of ReStore and Habitat for Humanity at large.
The final lecture in the Green Architecture series, sponsored by the Spoerl Lectureship in Science and Society, will take place on Thursday, March 2. Judy Corbet, co-founder of Village Homes in Davis, Calif. will present “Beyond Green Building: Planning for Sustainable Neighborhoods and Regions.