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About the Initiative

“Useful Waste” is a Portland State University Center for Public Interest Design-led initiative that aims to reframe the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industries' view on construction waste and encourage material diversion and reuse.


The intent of this initiative is to utilize an overlooked material resource - stand alone construction mock-ups - by repurposing the material and responding to pressing social needs, such as the local housing emergency.


Mock-ups are seen as temporary structures and typically end up in the landfill due to lack of pre-planning and immobility. This initiative facilitates a new process of material diversion within the typical construction schedule and requirements. By re-purposing a mock-up, a project team:   


  •     Diverts material and reduces landfill waste

  •     Reduces embodied carbon impact from materials

  •     Assists project sustainable goals (LEED, etc)

  •     Receive tax benefits for charitable donations

  •     Contributes to local community efforts



Where the Idea Started

When the Kenton’s Women Village in Portland, Oregon was being developed in 2016, Julia was employed at Carleton Hart Architecture, and worked on the construction administration phase of a new construction project. It is at the intersection of these two experiences that the idea of diverting construction mock-ups was understood as an opportunity for positive community impact.


On top of the social benefits, the inherent environmental and economical benefits also became clear. By diverting construction mock-ups and excess, unused construction materials from active construction sites, project teams saw financial incentives, material was repurposed, and local non-profits gained much needed resources.

Mock-ups provide huge benefits to the project team, but often waste material, time, and labor. By revisiting our traditional work methods, this initiative is an incremental innovation on the typical workflow that serves our community and environment.

About Julia Mollner

Founder of the Useful Waste Initiative

Julia Mollner, AIA, LEED Green Associate, CSI

Julia (she/her) is an avid runner, loves to travel, and is an Architect in Portland, Oregon. She has a background in architecture, art history, and public interest design; and she has a deep interest in waste reduction/reuse and a community-focused design process to foster socially responsible, holistic development. Her focus on human-oriented design creates long-lasting relationships with people throughout the process, and manifests in her affordable housing work.

SM_Julia_Carleton Hart_January 2019 head

Our Team

Edward Hodge, Student Intern, Summer 2021

Edward (he/him) is an undergraduate architecture student at Portland State University preparing to enter his third year of the program. He’s interested in sustainable design and building strategies that are influenced by material reuse, natural building, and community orientation. He’s curious about how these concepts can manifest into affordable housing and holistic design solutions. Outside of his studies, Edward can often be found along the Oregon coast surfing


Caitlyn Olds, Construction Supervisor, Summer 2021

Caitlyn Olds (she/they) is a 16 year resident of Portland and holds an MRED and BS in Social Science from PSU. They are passionate about housing justice, sustainability, adaptive reuse, and enjoy finding ways to support their community. She is happiest when making things with her hands, and spending time with family.


About the Center for Public Interest Design

The Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) is a research [+action] center at Portland State University that aims to investigate, promote, and engage in inclusive design practices that address the growing needs of underserved communities worldwid­­e. Through research and design, fieldwork, and public outreach, we promote a mode of practice that is socially conscious, environmentally sustainable, and economically accessible to all.

The CPID was established in 2013 in response to the critical need in underserved communities nationally and in developing nations for design practices that address issues such as inadequate shelter, food and water scarcity, disaster preparedness and recovery, and economic well-being. The work of the CPID builds upon several decades of progressive practice and research in public interest design of the center’s inaugural fellows and founding director, Sergio Palleroni. Based at PSU’s School of Architecture, the CPID fosters opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration among professionals, faculty, students, and community partners in order to advance engaged design practices and the emerging field of public interest design.”

 - Excerpt from the Center for Public Interest Design

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