A trio of college students from Detroit won a state sustainability pitch contest with their plan to deconstruct the city’s abandoned houses and reuse the salvaged pieces to help neighborhoods. Michigan state officials supported a recent contest among students from Wayne State University, Lawrence Tech University and University of Detroit Mercy to develop sustainable ways to take apart and repurpose abandoned structures, rather than demolishing them and sending everything to landfills as waste.
The winning team’s plan aimed to reinvest into neighborhoods through college and trade school scholarships, public spaces such as parks and community gardens, and even solar panel arrays that reduce power bills for nearby residents. Contest participants were randomly assigned to teams and the winning group included senior Lilly Solomon of western Michigan and junior Knicko Mojica of Warren, both from Wayne State, and Detroit Mercy freshman Alexander Kalaj of the Bloomfield area.
“Instead of flat-out demolishing a home and sending all this material to a landfill, we wanted to come up with a solution that found a use for these materials and kind of use whatever leftover value that they had, and make sure that that value was returned to these communities,” said Mojica, who majors in civil engineering. Solomon will soon graduate after studying political science, and Kalaj is a business student.
The student team’s plan included an awareness campaign for neighborhood residents in areas where abandoned houses would be deconstructed because of fears about risks of asbestos and lead contamination removal. The group also included using local contractors to take apart the structures and mitigate hazardous materials, and profits from the sale of reusable materials would be spent on community efforts.