Breaking Barriers Through Deconstruction graduates inaugural class launching new careers for disadvantaged Atlantans

Press release 6/7/2023 7:00 AM EST

Coalition of local organizations use EPA grant for workforce development program rooted in sustainable construction


ATLANTA, GA – Breaking Barriers Through Deconstruction (Breaking Barriers), a new workforce development program, recently graduated its first group of participants at the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design. Funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and organized by Lifecycle Building Center (LBC) and ReBuildATL– a coalition of Atlanta-based non-profits, local organizations and businesses – Breaking Barriers offers disadvantaged residents training in sustainable building methods, which gives them a significant advantage when seeking employment in the construction and deconstruction industries.

As part of the 20-day program, participants disassembled a 100-year-old barn on the site of the new Roswell Community Masjid (RCM) facility. Skanska is supporting RCM's efforts to design and construct its new building to meet the Living Building Challenge standard, and materials salvaged from the barn will be repurposed in the new RCM structure. The training cohort also deconstructed a stage in a historic theater owned by Grove Park Foundation (GPF), with these deconstructed materials to be reused in GPF’s affordable housing projects.

Leaders from Skanska provided OSHA safety training and LBC’s partner Re:Purpose Savannah oversaw the hands-on deconstruction portion of the training. GPRO certification, residential energy efficiency training, financial management education, construction plan review instruction and much more were provided by many partners, including 2M Design Consultants, Center for Sustainable Communities, Veterans Molding Minds and JE Dunn Construction.

“At a time when workforce development is paramount to sustaining our industry and community, Breaking Barriers provides an underserved population in Atlanta with a myriad of opportunities and the technical skills necessary to focus on reusing, and in many cases, preserving building materials as we continue to build for a better society together,” said Jimmy Mitchell, senior director of business development, Skanska. “We were excited to be a partner in this initiative and provide OSHA training and employee mentors to ensure every graduate is ready for the next step in their careers.”

As part of the program, trainees participated in a job fair where they met with residential remodeling, commercial construction and facility management employer partners and toured the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design – which has 28 reuse material installations currently on display.

In the US, construction and demolition waste accounts for upwards of 40 percent of the waste stream and building materials are among the biggest contributors of carbon emissions. Deconstruction presents a huge opportunity to create healthier environments while recovered materials find renewed life. Efforts are expanding in large and small communities all over the world to make buildings more circular and support local economies by developing a strong workforce and community-based entrepreneurship opportunities.

The core members of ReBuildATL include: Lifecycle Building Center; Grove Park Foundation; Center for Sustainable Communities; West Atlanta Watershed Alliance; Southface Institute; 2M Design Consultants; Groundwork Atlanta; Build Reuse; and Georgia Institute of Technology Serve-Learn-Sustain.

“We are so proud of our Breaking Barriers graduates, who have dedicated themselves to learning new skills and building a strong support network within and beyond the cohort,” said Shannon Goodman, Executive Director, Lifecycle Building Center. “The power of this program has been the individualized approach to helping students overcome barriers that have held them back by bringing out their unique strengths and connecting them with our committed partners who are eager to help them achieve their goals. Our graduates are helping us redesign and improve the program in partnership with our ReBuildATL coalition, and we look forward to delivering an even stronger Breaking Barriers program in the years to come.”

A video with highlights from the program can be found here.

Photos of the deconstruction project and graduation can be found here.