Monday, November 16, 2009

Building Value expands stock, opportunities in Northside

With a de-nailing ceremony symbolic of renewal, Building Value celebrated the grand opening of its new location on Saturday.

The new 23,000-square-foot location, at 4040 Spring Grove Avenue in Northside, is 50 percent larger than its former Walnut Hills location and features additional outdoor storage for its bulk building materials.

"Northside is the perfect community for Building Value, and we are happy to be here," said Jerry Janszen, director of Building Value. "We're lucky to have this new space so that we can expand our services and touch the lives of even more individuals with our hands-on experience and employment services."

A business with a mission

Founded in 2004 by the Easter Seals Work Resource Center, Building Value salvages and re-sells building materials that would otherwise make their way into local landfills.

But it also provides valuable job training in retail and the construction trades to people who have difficulty entering the mainstream job market due to disability, lack of work history, criminal conviction, or other barriers to employment.

To date, more than 5,000 tons of materials have been diverted from area landfills. More than 57,000 hours of training and paid employment have been provided to people with workplace disadvantages.

The goal is to teach skills that those employees can take to find full-time work.

"When they leave us they take a lot of knowledge and a lot of new skills, but also the feeling that it's important to re-use and to recycle materials," Janszen said.

Expanding opportunity

Building Value's expansion was made necessary by the expansion of its full-house deconstruction services. In its first six months, the non-profit has taken apart, by hand, nine houses.

This work brings in intricate woodwork, cabinets, fixtures and flooring, but it also brings in such mundane items as doorknobs, nails and screws.

Building Value estimates that between 60 percent and 90 percent of any house it deconstructs can be re-used. Items can be had for up to 75 percent less than their retail value.

"This is all the stuff that Cincinnati was built with, and we've got it here," Janszen said. "It's a shame that they have to come down, but, when they do, we're able to preserve most of it."

Right now, Building Value employs 25 people.

"This new building allows us to expand opportunities for employment," Janszen said.

Years in the making

Northside had been seeking a similar business since a brainstorming session by the community council more than five years ago –and even had a site in mind – according to Northside Community Council President Tim Jeckering.

"And then Building Value kind of springs out of action and opens up on Gilbert Avenue," he said.

Jeckering said they went about addressing other issues until Janszen approached him several months ago with the idea of relocating.

"So I kind of launched on a building-finding campaign for Jerry to find him a warehouse," Jeckering said. "Several I identified, and this one came about and then went away and came about again, and I'm thrilled they're here. It didn't happen five or seven years ago, but I'm thrilled it happened now."

'Building Value Day'

Cincinnati City Councilmember Greg Harris read a proclamation from Mayor Mark Mallory declaring November 14 Building Value Day in the City of Cincinnati.

"What's beautiful about their business plan is that it's brilliant by its simplicity," Harris said. "Folks go out there and, instead of demolishing houses, they deconstruct them. The content of those houses, instead of going to Rumpke, go into re-use. And they're re-used and sold here where people are trained on the retail side to sell the materials, and the folks that are doing the deconstruction are trained on the construction side. It's pretty simple, but when folks talk about workforce development and the environment, sometimes the talk gets kind of complicated. This is really brilliant in its simplicity, and it's really effective."

"Our business plan may have raised a few eyebrows," Janszen said. "And there are certainly easier ways to build a business. But the truth is we enjoy being different. We're still interested in the return on our investment, but we invest in more than just the building."

Previous reading on BC:
Area's first full-house deconstruction starts in Wyoming (8/3/09)