WHEN A CINCINNATI NONPROFIT CALLED the Work Resource Center (WRC) set out last year to create a building material recycling center, it did its homework. Now, after less than a year in business, it is about to pay off the initial $500,000 investment and go into the black. The building materials company, a subsidiary of WRC, is a for-profit business called Building Value. Not only is Building Value reducing construction and demolition waste, it's also employing disabled and chronically unemployed people in the region.

And for home builders—especially those involved in teardowns and remodeling—Building Value is a win-win. Amanda Harper, a spokesperson for WRC, notes that a team of bonded and OSHA-trained employees will actually go to the contractor or homeowner's site and take apart and remove objects of value.

“For example,” she says, “I was remodeling my bathroom, so they came out and disassembled a vanity and took it away. I paid them a nominal fee, and I got a tax break for donating it.”

Those same perks, of course, apply to builders and remodelers. When a builder donates materials to a materials exchange, he can write off that item as a donation. And with the added bonus of a trained crew to do the removal, he frees up his own crews to do other things, in effect doubling the labor savings.

“So far, we're limited to nonstructural things,” Harper adds, “but already we estimate we have kept 200 tons of materials from entering the landfill... .”

Construction material recycling centers have sprung up in many states—although few offer the level of contractor support this one does. They have been a boon for landlords, and manufacturers have begun to bring their overstocked products in by truck.

SECOND LIFE: This building material center in Cincinnati serves a dual purpose—providing low-cost materials for construction and training workers.

SECOND LIFE: This building material center in Cincinnati serves a dual purpose—providing low-cost materials for construction and training workers.