Deconstruction & Community Woodworks
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Introduction: Combining Wood Reuse With Job Creation
Board of Directors
Finances: Projecting Success & Meeting Market Demand
Links to Organizations and Businesses Involved Deconstruction
Publications Regarding Deconstruction

Introduction: Combining Wood Reuse & Job Creation

As consumer concern over the depletion of forest resources rises, reclaimed wood is stepping in as a viable alternative to virgin lumber. Reclaimed wood is diverted from the "wood waste stream" and used again - wood once destined for the landfill or the burn pile finds a new life as flooring, wall paneling, tables, and more. Deconstruction, the careful dismantling of buildings in order to recover the usable wood, is used to rescue this valuable lumber. Reusable wood is also salvaged from trees removed in urban areas for landscaping or other reasons. Deconstruction and salvage wood operations capture the supply of reusable wood and, in the process, prevent over-consumption of forest resources.

While the demand for reclaimed wood continues to grow, few virgin-wood mills accept this material for processing because of concerns about contaminants in the old wood. This processing gap makes it difficult for builders, architects, manufacturers, and the general public to access the supply of reclaimed wood.

To address that gap, a group of organizations in the Bay Area collaborated and developed a strategy for getting reclaimed wood into the user marketplace. The result of this collaboration is the nonprofit organization, Community Woodworks, funded by Federal government and private foundation grants. Community Woodworks' mission combines wood reuse activities with creating economic opportunities for disadvantaged individuals. The wood reuse activities involve the start-up of a lumber mill specifically targeting reclaimed wood. The mill will buy reclaimed lumber from suppliers, re-process it, and manufacture products to be sold. Additionally, Community Woodworks will market products made by other organizations. The "workforce development" aspect of the mill involves providing employment training and placement opportunities for low-income individuals while building a capacity to create more jobs.

The original members of this collaborative group form the Board of Community Woodworks. The Board members represent a diverse group of deconstruction practitioners and advocates, wood salvage operations, and nonprofit community organizations that serve disadvantaged populations.


The mill will use approximately 650 tons of wood in its first year and 840 tons the second year. Community Woodworks has developed partnerships with local deconstruction and wood salvage organizations to capture the supply of reclaimed wood available in the Bay Area. Beyond Waste, Inc., Youth Employment Partnership (YEP), and Protect all Life's San Francisco Tree Recycling Yard already operate successful wood recovery operations. For example, YEP is dismantling six three-acre warehouses at the Port of Oakland, which produce approximately 2.5 million board feet of reclaimed wood to be reused. As the Bay Area's construction and remodeling projects continue to boom, old buildings will increasingly need to be removed. Community Woodworks and its partners are prepared to salvage that wood and redirect it for beneficial use.

Community Woodworks will be the central hub in a manufacturing web consisting of deconstructed and salvaged wood suppliers, product manufacturers, and product end-users. Community Woodworks will offer an integrated reclaimed wood product line, with the main products being:

  • Milled dimensional lumber
  • Milled casework products (e.g, cabinets)
  • Milled architectural products (e.g. molding, trim)
  • Douglas Fir
  • Redwood
  • Hardwoods
  • Specialty Woods such s cedar, deodor, acacia, cypress, and locust

The Board

Youth Employment Partnership (YEP) is a nonprofit that has provided educational and skills training, as well as job placement and retention services to Oakland youth between the ages of 14 and 25 for the past 26 years.

Protect All Life, a nonprofit organization, operates the San Francisco Tree Recycling Yard, which salvages wood from urban areas and parks and diverts other wood from the landfill.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), a 27-year-old nonprofit that provides shelter, support services, educational development, skills training, and job placement and retention services to Berkeley and Oakland homeless adults or those at risk of homelessness.

The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (the Depot) has promoted solid waste diversion and resource conservation by collecting and redistributing reusable materials for education, arts and crafts, and a wide variety of other creative projects since the early 1980s. The Depot is currently about to launch the third phase of a project that combines the production of products made from discarded materials with job training for local inner-city youth.

The East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Commission (EBCRC) is a nonprofit organization responsible for addressing regional responses to military base closures and defense conversion. A significant part of EBCRC's mission is to assist local communities to identify new economic development opportunities that can provide jobs for local residents and dislocated base workers and contribute to the economic revitalization of the region's economy.

Materials for the Future Foundation (MFF)'s mission is job creation through reuse and remanufacturing enterprises. MFF helps nonprofit organizations create jobs for the constituents they serve by funding and providing technical and business assistance to reuse and remanufacturing business start-ups.

Beyond Waste, Inc., has been deconstructing buildings and salvaging the reusable lumber for more than five years in Sonoma County. Beyond Waste has the capacity to market the lumber as-is, or remill the lumber and to produce flooring and other products.

San Francisco Community Recyclers (SFCR) has a joint venture with Beyond Waste, Inc., assisting with the expansion of Beyond Waste's services into the San Francisco Area. SFCR has operated recycling programs in San Francisco for two decades, including a building materials reuse facility. SFCR is helping Beyond Waste, Inc. to expand its deconstruction work into the San Francisco market.

Ersch Recycled Millworks is owned and operated by Eron Ersch, who has been a cabinet and furniture maker for more than fifteen years. As a general contractor, Mr. Ersch specializes in interior and exterior wood finish work and replication of historical architectural details. Ersch Recycled Millworks makes custom and manufactured reproduction items. Ersch Recycled Millworks plans to expand to include reclaimed wood products, such as tables and doors.

Finances: Projecting Success & Meeting Market Demands

Community Woodworks currently has assets of over $500,000. Materials for the Future Foundation, the current fiscal agent of Community Woodworks, received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Community Services to create jobs for low-income individuals through the mill. Additional support comes from the Hewlett Foundation. Should the project partners decide to pursue additional funding through debt financing, relationships are already established with Community Bank of the Bay and the Alameda County Recycling Loan Fund.

Community Woodworks projects revenues from product sales and services to exceed $1,000,000 in its first year. Community Woodworks offers quick turnaround time on orders, large production capacity, and a network of partnerships in the wood and building industries, making us competitive in the wood supply industry. While a number of businesses in the Bay Area handle reclaimed wood in some form, no other operation currently offers a consistent, large inventory of remilled reclaimed lumber or has the capacity to provide on-demand milling services for reclaimed wood consumers. Community Woodwork's will deliver high-quality, cost-effective products to consumers, while helping prevent the depletion of forest resources.

Our initial customer base is the construction industry, raw lumber suppliers, architects, and manufacturers providing wood products. Community Woodworks' Director, Mike Prendergast, has a developed network with furniture and cabinet suppliers that are interested in purchasing product from Community Woodworks. Additionally, Advanced Lab Concepts in Houston, Texas, has expressed interest in purchasing table framing and table leg materials, as well as cabinets, from Community Woodworks. ISEC, Inc., in Denver, Colorado, is interested in purchasing trim and molding from the mill.

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