Welcome to The Multi-usiverse. Alongside your guide, Garr Punnett, explore worlds of opportunity within the use of physical resources across companies and organizations. Consider this a field guide in scaling reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, and recirculation. We’ll learn from guests who have ventured down this path and carved their way. Our aim is to discuss the successes, opportunities, and challenges of scaling a connected, circular economy. On this episode we’re joined by Shannon Goodman of LifeCycle Building Center and our own Rheaply Product Director Sabira Lakhani at Circularity22.
[00:00:07.210] – Garr Punnett
Well, good morning and welcome to Circularity 22. This is a rare episode of Multiusiverse in which we’re actually doing it live at an event. But today we’re joined by Sabira Lakhani. I should probably let you introduce yourself and what you do for Rheaply.
[00:00:22.690] – Sabira Lakhani
Sure. I’m the director of Product, joined almost two years ago, and that’s all.
[00:00:28.340] – Garr Punnett
Excellent. And then, Shannon Goodman, I’ll probably let you introduce yourself.
[00:00:31.820] – Shannon Goodman
I’m Shannon Goodman. I’m the executive director of Lifecycle Building Center.
[00:00:35.480] – Garr Punnett
Excellent. So we actually had some fun thing to put together for Circularity 22. We got to do a joint booth in which we got to sort of showcase what Rheaply is focusing on from a software perspective, how we’re looking at reuse. But we got to highlight a local, amazing facility called the Lifecycle Building Center. Could you share a little bit more about what you all do and then we can talk a little bit more about what we brought to the booth and then how that sort of plays into reuse.
[00:01:04.500] – Shannon Goodman
Absolutely. So Lifecycle Building Center is a nonprofit that captures building materials to prevent them from being discarded unnecessarily. And we have a lot of community impact in terms of giving those materials away to nonprofits and then serving a lot of residents in under resourced communities near our facility by giving them access to those materials at the lowest possible cost we can.
[00:01:27.450] – Garr Punnett
Yes, I love that. I don’t want to mess up any technical terms that were going into the items that we had on display, but can you do that from memory? What we had there, which was it was some sort of very cool chandelier, but I don’t know if it’s a chandelier. I can’t remember the technical term for it.
[00:01:42.980] – Shannon Goodman
Yeah. So there’s appendix.
[00:01:44.850] – Garr Punnett
[00:01:45.750] – Shannon Goodman
I knew there was appendix from a church from the early 1900, a really cool Baptist church we were a part of with one of our partners over in West Midtown. And we were able to recover a lot of materials that were repurposed in an exciting project on Georgia Tech’s campus called the Candida Building for Innovative Sustainable Design.
[00:02:07.290] – Garr Punnett
[00:02:07.880] – Shannon Goodman
But that was one of the materials. It didn’t go in the Candida project, but it’s living on now in this scene, as well as in other people’s projects, businesses, homes.
[00:02:18.500] – Garr Punnett
And then tell me about also the unique piece we had with a fine piece of old wood with some hanging Barlights far lights. Okay.
[00:02:28.500] – Shannon Goodman
Yeah. So that also came out of a project from the early 1900, was also converted into a bar.
[00:02:35.340] – Garr Punnett
[00:02:37.130] – Shannon Goodman
And it’s got those really cool, like, light bulb frames.
[00:02:40.800] – Garr Punnett
[00:02:41.650] – Shannon Goodman
So, yeah, we love that piece because you’ve got, like, really old growth wood in there, and it kind of harkens back to historical time and use.
[00:02:51.510] – Garr Punnett
Yeah. What I loved is sort of how we were able to, frankly, juxtapose a little bit of what reuse means, and a lot of the things that we might see coming out of great projects that you are working on. And a lot of the subjects here today which don’t necessarily focus on those type of premium high value objects can be used in anything from a residential sort of remodel or even commercial if someone’s creative enough, sure. But what does it actually take? Because we didn’t really see a whole lot of operational conversations around what it takes to deconstruct or reclaim. What does it go into actually taking those types of valuable resources out of a facility that’s getting deconstructed? How does that actually happen? What goes into sort of planning that?
[00:03:39.220] – Shannon Goodman
Yeah, well the biggest question is you have to line up the supply and demand, right?
[00:03:45.140] – Garr Punnett
[00:03:46.280] – Shannon Goodman
That’s one of the biggest decision factors. So we are constantly trying to have a clear sense of where are the greatest needs for which types of material, how can we meet those needs? And then we also have limited resources. So we’re always balancing that. Where do we put our efforts and energy and our time to collect. But we have trained staff that go in and physically remove the materials. We’ve been able to do some workforce development, job training around deconstruction which is powerful because folks, especially those that are looking for a living wage career, they can gain so many skills by learning how to take buildings and materials apart. They can learn how to put buildings together.
[00:04:31.100] – Garr Punnett
I want to get more into the more of the operations of that. But I think that’s actually and I’m not trying to make this all about jobs but I think that is something that maybe is undertake about or under discussed around how this type of reuse economy could really mean substantial work and training efforts for many different cities across the country. How do you guide that conversation not only locally but as a part of maybe a bigger organization like Build Reuse? How is that sort of a part of the conversation?
[00:05:04.530] – Shannon Goodman
Yes. So we actually are working on a program now to expand this. So Build Reuse has developed a training curriculum for deconstruction.
[00:05:14.330] – Garr Punnett
I’m going to interrupt Rheaply quickly because Build Reuse is a part of a larger initiative to get more reuse centers. I tend to want to break that down for people. And so it’s super cool that you all are coming together and doing this but please continue to build the uses.
[00:05:28.230] – Shannon Goodman
Of some membership organization of nonprofits and for profits like Lifecycle building center all across the United States. And basically they’ve had training and they’ve had expert trainers that they’ve deployed over the years. But what’s exciting now to help communities basically bring deconstruction into their locations. But now what they’re working on is taking that training curriculum. First of all, having expansion of certified deconstruction trainers across the country used to be just a few people interspersed. So we’re actually building a program where folks can actually get certified to do that. And then the training itself, there are components of it that can be administered through an online platform. So that’s one exciting thing.
[00:06:12.590] – Garr Punnett
Okay. Because probably what that takes away is if I’m speaking out of turn here, I think historically, I mean, I grew up in essentially a Lifecycle Building Center. My mother was just obsessed with going. But what always seemed to me as a kid is it always was sort of ad hoc. And this seems to be really putting structure and actually some cohesion of programs to where it’s like it’s no longer people can actually start to expect certain outcomes as opposed to probably the stigma. Again, that might haunt sort of Reuse, which is it’s always like, again, ad hoc catches catch can. And we need to start building systems that can really do this probably at some certain scales, too, and really sort of reclaim these materials.
[00:06:56.910] – Shannon Goodman
Yes, I could not agree more. And that’s where we are now as an industry, is we are trying to figure out how to scale. So one of the things that’s important, we were talking about workforce development. So for that to be successful at scale, an organization like Lifecycle Building Center can’t be the only entity that sees the value of training individuals in material reclamation and deconstruction. Right. So we have to partner with Allied Industries, which is what we’re doing now in Atlanta through our training pilot. So folks in construction, folks in demolition, folks in C and B recycling, we need to all work together. And so we brought together a bunch of partners to take the Build Reuse curriculum and tailor it as needed for each industry, pool our resources. Because the training itself, you have to make sure that those folks that are trained have a guaranteed career pathway once the training is complete.
[00:07:51.870] – Garr Punnett
[00:07:52.580] – Shannon Goodman
And again, that’s why we rebranded. We used to be the Building Materials Reuse Association for about 27 years and we became Build Reuse because we have to pull together all of these partners and industries that are associated with the built environment. So architecture, construction, development, real estate, building owners, we have to all work together. And Build Reuse is a much more inclusive platform for us to do that.
[00:08:17.770] – Garr Punnett
That’s great. That’s hitting on something. I don’t know why I didn’t consider which is not only the supply and demand of the actual materials, but the people that can actually facilitate the actual reuse. It’s usage.
[00:08:29.300] – Shannon Goodman
We can’t scale without a trained workforce. There’s other aspects of physical space, transportation, et cetera, but the labor is hands down the number one limiter for our industry. But I’m hoping that we’re also going to talk a little bit about information flow. Is that another limiter?
[00:08:48.030] – Garr Punnett
Yes. Okay, we’re getting to that point. Because again, what I loved is, again, from our booth standpoint, our shared experience for this booth, we got to display a lot of these items which created a different conversation, I think, in many people that would stop stopping by and wondering, okay, not only what is Rheaply and how does Rheaply play into this, but what is lifecycle building center? And so that’s even the start of the informational flow, please.
[00:09:16.040] – Sabira Lakhani
I thought it was really cool to see people engage with the items first, because information flow is so intangible. It feels data and information about things feels, like, very digital and not touchable. And people at the booth came and saw these items, and there was a story with the item, and then they’re, like, connecting the dots of, oh, if I need this thing, how do I find the information about this thing in a digital world and in a not digital world? And then, like, that that really makes the dots connect. And it was especially cool because the items themselves were really old. And so that evoking of value is much stronger.
[00:09:56.480] – Shannon Goodman
Yes, it is naturally inspires curiosity. And you’ve heard me say this before. So imagine going into, like, a 700 square foot warehouse, which is what we have for LBC, and seeing so many examples of that, that’s that same experience at the Rheaply booth kind of supercharged, right?
[00:10:13.990] – Sabira Lakhani
[00:10:14.490] – Shannon Goodman
But what I’m inspired by is the hunger for that information, about the history, about the stories. And I truly do believe that there is a connection, whether people are conscious of it or not. To reuse that’s, like, literally part of our DNA, I feel like that’s a natural drive, as the fact that somebody at the conference talked about, we have to make sure that we don’t forget that humans are a part of nature. Right. And you had somebody in your session yesterday I did. Talking about how much are we valuing how nature works in the natural world?
[00:10:49.760] – Garr Punnett
[00:10:50.700] – Shannon Goodman
[00:10:51.790] – Garr Punnett
I got to fumble through my answer on how to incorporate nature, of which I think I did appropriately. I basically had to be honest and say it’s really hard to incorporate nature when it’s so much about cost. And so there’s always that sort of give and pull because we often are selling. And so when we’re selling, we have to be sort of talking about, what does this mean from an ROI perspective, costs of, again, acquiring Rheaply as a service and then figuring out, all right, what does this mean for an operation? But nature is what drives us. It’s what it fuels us to actually keep working on these systems.
[00:11:27.830] – Sabira Lakhani
It sustains us.
[00:11:28.950] – Garr Punnett
It sustains us, exactly. Yes. So at this conference, to that point, then we are around a bunch of our peers, people that also it sustains them constantly figuring out solutions. I want to say this is tax free as possible, but what do we like? What did we like hearing? What were we surprised that we heard either collectively or from a panel? And what do we think, again here’s, the taxpayers, what do you think needs to evolve in order to address more changes that need to happen, more maturity in terms of how we see circularity or see reuse. Any takes initially on that?
[00:12:08.970] – Sabira Lakhani
Well, I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the conversation around repair. I got to sit in a number of sessions, which I got to meet the CEO, I fix it. And there is a number of people thinking about how do we repair things at scale, especially as the right to repair laws. We see them coming down the pike. That was like one area that I was excited about and the other was kind of what you were hinting at before, is information about things so that you can make better decisions about them and the tools and technology that are starting to become available. Watermarking, QR codes, those technologies exist. But the question is then how do you use them also at scale, across life of the asset so that you can make those better decisions? And that still to me feels like an unknown. So I was happy with the conversation and I could feel kind of the tension of nobody really knows where this is going and that’s okay. And so those are my kind of like pluses, I think I avoided the plastics conversation, but it felt like it was like 50% maybe of plastics and packaging.
[00:13:11.790] – Sabira Lakhani
Plastics and packaging. And I think a lot of people need to be focused on that, so they need to create space for that. But I did that in my previous.
[00:13:19.980] – Garr Punnett
Life, so I saved it, I’ve seen it. I might know still what’s going on in it. We still got problems and we’re trying to solve those problems. How about you, Shannon?
[00:13:29.510] – Shannon Goodman
So I appreciate you bringing up repair. So I feel like that dovetails perfectly with what I was going to highlight, which is the digital product passport section. Because they go hand in hand, I think that can be revolutionary for many industries, including the reused industry. And I hope that I get to see this happen. And I know you guys are working really hard on this, so I hope I get to see this happen in my lifetime where there really is the ability to track and trace and make those connections and create value around that action that makes sense. Right. I was inspired, I think probably gosh, must have been almost 15 years ago when I was hearing about what the city of San Francisco was trying to pilot to basically have there be some value, have there be responsibility for what happens to materials and products after they’re created.
[00:14:34.230] – Garr Punnett
[00:14:34.870] – Shannon Goodman
And that was the first time that I had heard of that concept, especially.
[00:14:38.110] – Garr Punnett
On what might be like from a government standpoint or pushing the boundary of what’s happening.
[00:14:43.760] – Shannon Goodman
Stop. Because you made it right.
[00:14:46.260] – Garr Punnett
[00:14:46.940] – Shannon Goodman
Your responsibility doesn’t end and it is a shared responsibility and we all have to participate in that process and figure out how to make it work successfully together, but we have to continue on that path or this is all it’s not work.
[00:15:04.630] – Garr Punnett
Yeah. I mean. On that passport type of conversation. What we’ve got is actually the panel that I really enjoyed. That was probably the most it got the most questions. Have the most energy to it was the Tracking and Traceability panel. Which was all about watermarks. QR codes. Whatever might be adhesive or somehow infused into an item. Headed into an item. In which you could start tracking it almost imperceptibly from the consumer standpoint. Where it’s like they don’t even know that it’s there. But the players know that you can actually access that data through various types of tools. What I loved, though, and that actually almost speaks to the uncertainty of what’s coming next or the tension of how does this work? Is like the amount of hands that were thrown up and questions that were raised about how do we even get this happening? That was cool to see because I think previously we’ve seen a lot of people just glossing over maybe the real intricacies of a system in which it’s going to use barcodes and QR codes to track things. But I think we’re almost getting to like, how does this actually get operationalized?
[00:16:21.170] – Shannon Goodman
[00:16:22.190] – Sabira Lakhani
I think in the subsequent session that this is kind of like the Internet, where you need to collaborate to build the platform so that you can build things on top of it.
[00:16:31.870] – Garr Punnett
Yeah, that’s interesting. Yes. With a hint of mystery of like, how is it going to work?
[00:16:37.010] – Sabira Lakhani
The question is, who’s going to do that? Who’s going to leave that? And economically, who is going to invest in that and why? And then the standards around that, and then framing the opportunity to others that like, oh, once we have this something in common, then we can do XYZ. That still to me feels very a little bit out of reach.
[00:16:58.380] – Shannon Goodman
I’m glad that you brought up investment because one thing I did not get to talk about is I feel like for our industry. Specifically building material reuse. We are now at the precipice of trying to pool our collective resources through build. Reuse and gather our data together to be able to demonstrate for the first time for our industry what our current collective impact is in terms of carbon. In terms of economics. How much money are we saving individuals, businesses, nonprofits across the United States? How many jobs are we creating as an industry? And then be able to demonstrate, okay, these are where we need to pull the levers to be able to scale, and this is the potential impact that our industry could have. I feel like that’s a critical piece that has been missing for us for a long time.
[00:17:49.760] – Garr Punnett
That’s the common collection of that information.
[00:17:52.360] – Shannon Goodman
To present to everyone, it’s not known. So the scale of opportunity is not understood.
[00:17:59.760] – Sabira Lakhani
Yes. And that makes sense too. Because our linear economy is very one way. But I almost think I know there was a mention of semicircles, right? The linear economy is actually like halfway around, and the circular economy closes that loop. And so all of the opportunity on the reverse side of when something goes out the door is totally unknown. And you’re totally right. And you were talking about industry associations. Historically, those groups have come together to sell sell. And so what you’re doing with Build Reuse is closing that circle. And industry associations, economic opportunity, jobs on that backside, but it’s like it’s the dark side of the moon, right? You just don’t know what’s there.
[00:18:39.190] – Garr Punnett
That’s a great point because I think that’s where from you all coming together. You can show someone in Pittsburgh, oh, this is what we’ve done in Atlanta. And the one to one is fairly consistent of saying, this is how we push this. This is what we did, this is what we saw so that many legislators across the country or whoever other stakeholders are involved can be like, yes, okay, we understand that this is going on in this part of the country. We want to replicate that here.
[00:19:04.410] – Sabira Lakhani
Well, I have a question for you, because I was super inspired. I didn’t know too much about the life cycle. And I was like, I don’t think that there’s one of these in New Jersey where I’m from. And I was like, as a person from there, what could I do to get your message out and to maybe inspire some people in my community to start a center or to start taking action or talk to our mayor or what are the things that the tools that I might have as a citizen.
[00:19:33.650] – Shannon Goodman
Heat this up perfectly? So I talked about the workforce development program that we’re working on in Atlanta well, that we’re also partnering with Build Reuse on. So another aspect of that project is a Reuse for Communities toolkit.
[00:19:47.830] – Garr Punnett
Oh, excellent. There we go.
[00:19:49.460] – Shannon Goodman
So this is through an EPA job training grant that we got a couple of years ago. And basically that is what we are working with builder used to create. And so we’re going to pick a handful of cities. We had two interns from Georgia Tech start with us this week. They’re going to be working with Build Reuse to gather information from these organizations across the US. And basically figure out what’s been working. Where are the pinch points? Where are the struggles and challenges? And put together this resource so that communities, individuals, entrepreneurs have more resources available to them so that they can actually start this in their own backyard. So stay tuned.
[00:20:33.770] – Sabira Lakhani
How long will that take?
[00:20:34.900] – Shannon Goodman
We have to deliver this next year, so we have to have everything complete by second quarter 2023. Stay tuned.
[00:20:44.990] – Garr Punnett
I don’t think we could have ended it any better, but any takeaway thoughts here from yes. Oh, perfect. Take away thoughts. Let’s start with Shannon.
[00:20:53.390] – Shannon Goodman
So I did not have a chance to talk about something that I was kind of yearning for in the conference and admittedly, I’m a little biased. My background is in architecture.
[00:21:03.420] – Garr Punnett
Excellent. Yes, of course.
[00:21:04.860] – Shannon Goodman
So we’ve had some exciting conversations. I want to see what happens to the possible integration of nanotechnology or whatever the tactics are into. I want to see, like, some pilots with a project that’s being deconstructed, and you begin to trace.
[00:21:24.710] – Garr Punnett
[00:21:25.160] – Shannon Goodman
You have this ability to track where those materials go and what their new.
[00:21:29.480] – Garr Punnett
Lives become provenance of those items. Yes.
[00:21:32.470] – Shannon Goodman
However, as a recovering architect, I felt like I didn’t hear really any conversation about the decisions and the processes that go into design absolutely. From the get go, that facilitates greater reuse on the back end. So designed for deconstruction, disassembly. I’d like to see some more architects here. Right. Contractors, construction companies. Yeah, absolutely. That level of innovation so that it’s not just what happens on the back end, how can we make the process of building, designing, and building structures more intentional and totally in sync with what we know can happen on the back end?
[00:22:20.160] – Garr Punnett
If you’ve got this on the tip of your tongue, that’d be awesome. What are some of those simple decisions? I know, limitedly, like, essentially not using as many adhesives, maybe, or that seems simple. Is there anything else, too, that is sort of a recommendation?
[00:22:36.410] – Shannon Goodman
Sure. Well, durability.
[00:22:39.230] – Garr Punnett
Okay. Got it.
[00:22:42.410] – Shannon Goodman
We’ve had a lot of conversations at the conference about that. Right. You do want to make sure that you are selecting and combining materials in such a way that they’re not going to deteriorate unnecessarily quickly. So material choice is obviously huge. Body carbon goes into that. So there’s a lot of synergy. The Candida building that we’re talking about before is an excellent example of that. There’s a lot of synergy between material choices and embodied carbon and connections, like physical how those physical connections are designed to facilitate disassembly at the end of the current cycle. So those are all those are all in there.
[00:23:21.330] – Garr Punnett
All considerations. You had those ready to go. Any takeaways? Last minute.
[00:23:26.160] – Sabira Lakhani
I also felt like there was an absence of conversation about reuse. It wasn’t that strong. It was like plastic and repair.
[00:23:36.610] – Shannon Goodman
A little heavy on the recycling.
[00:23:37.930] – Garr Punnett
[00:23:38.990] – Sabira Lakhani
And I kind of wish I don’t know if I would call myself, like, a reuse practitioner. I don’t use my hands as a tool builder for the world of reuse. I kind of wish to connect with others more on that traffic.
[00:23:51.920] – Garr Punnett
[00:23:53.390] – Sabira Lakhani
But I think, like, postcode, personally, I felt very happy and energized to be around other people in circularity. I think sitting behind the screen feels isolated in the world in which we are seeking to connect. Right. We need to be interacting more to get kind of those accelerated pathways to progress. And so that felt really good. I’m happy that I got to join. The conversations are what they are, and hopefully we have more of them next year.
[00:24:24.810] – Garr Punnett
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think it was to that point, it was fun to be in a panel where you might hear somebody talk about reuse or someone talks about reuse in the room. And then there would be like random whoops for like yeah, reuse. And it’s like, okay, then there’s clearly a sign that’s, like, we’re not talking about it enough because people are, like, telling you so excited to exclaim. Exactly.
[00:24:47.980] – Shannon Goodman
Experience that at your booth.
[00:24:49.410] – Garr Punnett
Yes, it was. So I know we’re going to get some shots of the booth going so you all can see what we’re doing. But thank you both for joining. We’ve had a wonderful time here at Circularity. Thanks again for listening. If you do have any questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, again, look forward to seeing you or hearing you next time. Thank you so much for listening.
Other episodes we think you'll love:
28. Sandra Noonan on reusable packaging and scaling circular operations
Chief Sustainability Officer, Just Salad