Re-Purposing Construction Mock-Ups

April 09, 2020

As a new method of extending the life of building materials and supporting social needs in local communities, the Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) at the Portland State University School of Architecture created a new initiative, “Useful Waste: Re-Purposing Construction Mock-Ups.” Full-size pre-construction mock-ups have become valuable onsite tools to test material quality, performance, and installation techniques, and while they ultimately reduce construction waste by reducing guesswork or unexpected errors, the actual mock-ups typically end up in landfills. Once construction sites are finished with their mock-up, CPID’s creative initiative, created and organized by CPID professional fellow Julia Mollner, converts this construction waste into a sleeping pod for a local village focused on combating houselessness. “Huge amounts of resources go into making these mock-ups, so being able to divert those resources in a meaningful way is a really powerful concept,” said Scott Mooney, senior associate at SRG Partnership and CPID professional fellow. As advocates for direct action that improves our communities, the 4th & Montgomery Building team of SRG, Andersen Construction, and the sub-contractors eagerly took on the opportunity to contribute to the cause.

Since 2016 SRG has been involved with CPID’s influential community outreach efforts including the P.O.D. initiative, the S.A.F.E. Pod/Pickathon stage, and more recently helped create the Pod Build Challenge for the Kenton Women’s Village. These proactive initiatives to address inequality in our built environment leverage industry resources and partnerships to respond to the immediate needs within the community.

Designed with reuse in mind, Andersen and the sub-contractor teams at Harver and General Sheet Metal—with incredible support from the Andersen Foundation—donated time and materials to complete the transformation of the 4th & Montgomery Building performance mock-up as a case study for the CPID initiative. The SRG project designer on 4th & Montgomery, Scott Mooney, leveraged his past experience working with the Kenton Women’s Village to ensure what was being built could be easily converted into a sleeping pod. Minor modifications included making the mock-up panels shorter than the future building panels to accommodate freeway transportation height limits, adding operable windows for passive ventilation, and designing a three-sided mock-up to limit the amount of additional framing needed to complete the pod.

The project and mock-up both benefited from the use of Integrated Project Delivery, allowing the team to work closely and efficiently on the complex details of the building enclosure, the finishes coordination, quality control, and overall coordination. After the 4th & Montgomery Building team completes the performance testing and started construction, the newly converted sleeping pod will be donated to the Clackamas Veterans Village. Explaining the importance of helping create more Villages, Scott said, “this reuse model has huge potential, but we need to create places for these mock-ups to land, and it should be a priority. That way, as other pods come online, (mock-ups) have places to go.”

As a call to action, the CPID created a valuable open-source Mock-Up Design Guidebook for the AEC industry to promote sustainability and contribute to the growing concerns around houselessness in our community. What other possibilities are there to re-purpose overlooked materials for the greater good?

DJC Oregon, “Converting Construction Waste into Housing,” September 27, 2019
Portland Design Pup, “National Treasure 2: Useful Waste,” November 3, 2019