Creative repurposing of materials for construction

About 75% of the ‘new’ materials we brought into the building actually came from the U.S. waste stream. Let me give you some examples.

Our insulation was found through Insulation Depot, located in Massachusets. They found the once-used polyiso we needed in Illinois and Maryland, and it was sent to us via trucks.


Our drywall is made from flyash, a material that is scraped from coal smoke stacks.


Our floor is made from fallen oak and ash from the southeast Michigan area. It was harvested and processed by Lon Ullman, a local woodsmith.


All of the trim in the building and the ledges in the meeting rooms comes from original purlins in the building that had to come down.

Trim and ledges

The base wood of the reception desk and bench came from a popcorn shop in Royal Oak that was undergoing a renovation. We know the contractor, and he called and asked if we wanted the wood. The wood on top of the table and bench comes from a fallen walnut tree.

Popcorn shop wood

The kitchen cabinets were found on Craigslist. They came from Troy and dated back to 1956. A coat of enamel and they looked brand new. The countertops came from Cody High School’s shop classroom.

Kitchen cabinets and countertop

Most of our furniture came from the Detroit Public Schools warehouse.


The metal frames for our greenhouse came from the Ottawa Power Plant in Lansing, MI. In a bit of serendipity, we were biking in Lansing, saw the construction and pedaled over to see if they had anything they could offer us. They did.

Greenhouse frames

Our doors came from all over. This one was found at a Detroit antiques shop.

Room 2 door

The cedar wood for the backyard fence was found on Craigslist.

Backyard fence

The bricks for the alley came from a defunct brewry in southeast Ohio.


Just about everywhere you look at the Green Garage you’ll find repurposed materials. There were some things, however, we had to buy new. All of the electrical supplies were new (liability issues). The glass for our external windows (Cardinal 360) was ordered new for efficiency purposes. All plumbing fixtures had to be ordered new both because of efficiency and code regulations. Our radiant heating materials, such as the pex tubing running under the floors, are new, as are the floor and wall tiles in the bathrooms. The paint is, of course, new. But all in all, the vast majority of materials in the building are used. A tour group from Europe told us that our building has a European feel, and I’m guessing this is why.

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