The Rebuilding Centre

Key Facts:

Project summary: A building materials reuse warehouse and retail store, run by a community-based non profit organisation

Location: Portland, Oregon, USA

Retail warehouse, woodshop, storage, Refind Furniture that constructs furniture from salvaged materials, workshops and a deconstruction service that sensitively disassembles buildings on contract

Initiator: Our United Villages (local 501c3 non-profit)

Project Duration: On-going (opened on current site in 1999, spent previous year on a temporary site)

Lead in Time:
Seven months elapsed between Our United Villages’ incorporation and the ReBuilding Center’s first opening on temporary site.

Site Area: c. 42,000 ft2 (3,900 m2)

Client Team: Our United Villages

Funding Sources (For initial, temporary site):

  • Initial start up loan against a volunteer’s credit card: £10,000
  • Municipal waste diversion grant for capital costs: £20,500

Funding Sources (For permanent site):

  • Federal loan to create jobs in underserved communities: £450,000
  • Meyer Memorial Trust (locally-based private foundation): £125,000
  • Donation of land by landlord: £205,000

Profitability/Loss: c. £1.9mil annual turnover, of which c. £80k profit.

Local Links:
Profits from Our United Villages constituent businesses fund initiatives by their Community Outreach department, which is a key means by which the non-profit fulfils its charitable mission to strengthen local community bonds. 80% of staff live locally, a result of a positive recruitment policy.

Publicity/advertising: Website, business cards, newsletter, bumper stickers and t-shirts, limited print advertising

Project Evaluation:

Site Details & Ownership:
Site located in North Portland on North Mississippi Avenue near Interstate 5. Site accessible by vehicles, bikes and pedestrians for donations and collections from south side (primarily for vehicles) and east side (primarily for pedestrians). Both land and building owned by Our United Villages.

Project Reach / Visitors / Target Audience:
The ReBuilding Center processes the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver region’s largest volume of used building and remodelling materials. It provides resources that make DIY home repairs affordable to everyone, with the goal of promoting the reuse of salvaged and reclaimed materials. Three hundred people visit the ReBuilding Center every day to browse the ever-changing inventory. The United Villages’ stated mission is “To inspire people to value and discover existing resources to strengthen the social and environmental vitality of communities.” Within this context, the ReBuilding Center’s work is intended as a demonstration of neighbourhood building; turning things that are misperceived as waste into community assets, and through this process, building relationships among community members. The ReBuilding Center diverts almost 6 million pounds of reusable building materials from landfills every year. Environmental benefits are equivalent to preventing c. 104,000 pounds of greenhouse gas each year. The RBC creates about 40 “green collar” jobs; for example, DeConstruction Services creates 4 to 6 jobs compared with one job in traditional demolition. Staff are paid a living wage with full health and dental benefits (extended to their partners and dependent children) and a retirement plan. The RBC makes c. 100 donations of materials per year to non-profit and community groups, valued at c. £13,000.

Problems Encountered / Overcome:
The organisation was founded at great speed, and with no initial capital and requires a high level of staff commitment (particularly long hours worked in start-up mode). However the narrative from senior leadership is one of positive progress rather than of “challenges met”.

Feedback from users / staff:
The ReBuilding Center’s slogan is “I Love That Place”, which neatly sums up the sentiments of both visitors and staff. In terms of more formal acclaim, the Rebuilding Center is the winner of the Oregon Ethics in Business Award, the Oregon Entrepreneurs Forum Award, and The City of Portland’s “BEST Business Award”.

What next?
The ReBuilding Center has a very local mission, so does not plan to expand outside of North Portland, but is very happy to act as an exemplar project.

Complementary Programmes:
Free collection service. Subsidiary demolition service, from which materials are salvaged for the ReBuilding Center. A subsidiary service that makes high-end furniture from repurposed materials. On-site workshops and community outreach activities.

Project Website/Further Info:;