Econ 919 — Building better use of construction materials

Sep 4, 2020

As anyone who’s done a home improvement project knows, building materials can be expensive. And as anyone who goes to the landfill knows, people throw away perfectly good stuff.

There’s a solution to both those problems, and it now has a home in Soldotna. BuildUp opened its physical doors two weeks ago. It’s a nonprofit organization that takes donated construction items that otherwise would be headed to the dump, and sells them to the public at deep discounts.

Amy Anderson, of Anderson Custom Builders, has been frustrated for years with throwing away usable materials.  

“Just from our own jobs, the accumulation of leftover doors, windows, tile, grout, Sheetrock was piling up and a lot of it ended up at the dump because we ran out of space,” Anderson said. “I go to the CD cell probably once a week and that’s hard to do.”

 


Anderson approached the Kenai Peninsula Builders Association to see if other builders would be interested in donating. She got a positive response so she set about recruiting a board of directors and forming a nonprofit. That was back in March. Given COVID-19, that was not a good time to think about opening a storefront, so they started out on Facebook, posting pictures of all the items available for sale.

It got to be quite the inventory — tile, sinks, tools, paint, grout, windows, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, shingles, wood spindles, even a chimney brush at one point. Spray paint for $1. Light fixtures for $5. Solid wood doors for $10 to $30. Everything at least half off what you’d pay for new.

“The things that we are receiving from donations are in great quality. We have light fixtures that just come from a remodel — maybe it’s a personal taste that has changed but they function great,” Anderson said. “Leftover siding from a job. The other day we were donated a toolbox that functions perfectly, they just don’t want it. And the list goes on. Or you have leftover insulation, like a half bag of insulation. Well, that half bag adds up to a lot of insulation and where do you store that as a builder? You might as well donate it.” 

Storage quickly got to be a problem.

“I stored all the donations in my personal residence and over a couple months, the donations started to accumulate and the space got smaller and smaller,” she said. 

BuildUp got a 100 Women Who Care grant in June that helped them open a storefront. They’re on Sterling Highway on the east end of Soldotna, in the same building with North Star Metals, between the Soldotna Animal Hospital and the golf course. Opening day was Aug. 21. For now, they’re open Fridays and Saturdays. Starting Sept. 10, they’ll be open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

BuidUp welcomes shoppers and takes donations during open hours. And you don’t have to be a professional builder to donate — anyone with good quality but no longer needed items can drop them at BuildUp, rather than the dump.

“I mean, I get it. You get tired of holding on to something, like, ‘Oh, I’ll use this sink later.’ And three years later you still have it and you’re like, ‘OK, I’m done with it.” And then it just goes to the dump. Versus, well, bring it here. There’s a central location where it has a better chance of it being used,” she said.

Two of the open days will be staffed by Anderson. And when schools are in remote learning mode, she’ll have her four kids — all under the age of 9 — in tow. It’s a lot to tackle. But with every trip to the dump, Anderson felt like she had to make it happen, with work, life, kids, and all.

“I knew it was going to be a commitment but I am ready for it,” Anderson said. “And I think I read it on SBS or something but, 'Change doesn’t happen in a comfortable place.' And I tell myself that when I feel overwhelmed.”

For more information, to check out the inventory, or to volunteer, visit BuildUp on Facebook, or stop by and visit at 42365 Sterling Highway.