• Architects want to do the right thing when it comes to using reclaimed materials, says PlanetReuse founder and principal Nathan Benjamin (right), but they dont always have the time to do the research. Operations manager Tim Bensman adds, We provide a professional face to these materials.

    Credit: Stefan Hester

    “Architects want to do the right thing when it comes to using reclaimed materials,” says PlanetReuse founder and principal Nathan Benjamin (right), “but they don’t always have the time to do the research.” Operations manager Tim Bensman adds, “We provide a professional face to these materials.”

The great thing about entrepreneurship is there’s always a gap to be filled. Nathan Benjamin started planetreuse.com in January 2008 as a Craigslist/eBay-type site for reclaimed building materials that could be used in new commercial projects. He realized, however, that although the listings were diverting waste from landfills, they weren’t addressing the communication gap between design and construction teams and the deconstruction/demolition community. So Benjamin and his business partner, Tim Bensman, became brokers for reused materials.

“Each discussion about this topic is different—for contractors, for architects, for owners,” Benjamin says, and PlanetReuse, which continues to list products, talks to each party in its own argot—specifications, schedules, bottom-line dollars. Benjamin and Bensman, LEED APs and friends from their time at a Kansas City, Mo., general contractor, work with architects during the design phase at no cost, finding chances for materials reuse. (Here, Benjamin notes, his architectural engineering degree proves invaluable.) If there’s a match, PlanetReuse stays on through the project’s end, taking a brokering fee at the product-purchase phase while offering up to 20 percent savings over similar, new products.

Benjamin says he and Bensman have spent the past two years ensuring they had a solid business model “in our backyard,” and the website highlights mostly Midwestern projects, including one in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kan., with BNIM Architects. Their diligence has paid off. The company claimed 300 percent growth last year, and a recent issue of KC Business labeled Benjamin one of the area’s “rising stars.” Now, PlanetReuse is looking to expand its horizons. “We’re talking about some military-type projects in Guam,” notes Benjamin. Adds Bensman: “We can go anywhere sustainable minds want to take us.”

Now four years old, Threshold, AIA Minnesota’s official blog, has picked up speed recently. Most posts focus on local things—the occasional “In Plain Sight” series, for example, is about lesser-known parts of the Minnesota landscape—but Threshold also covers topics of national and international interest.

What, exactly, is “Main Street”? Politicians and newspaper editorials would have you believe it’s a single place that represents a “true” America—as opposed to, say, the rarified realms of Wall Street or K Street. In fact, the U.S. contains almost 10,500 Main Streets. Each has its own story to tell, and the documentary project Mapping Main Street wants to record them all.

Top AEC consulting company ZweigWhite finally joins the blogosphere with The Board Room, which launched in November. Now you can enjoy business-savvy insights, information, and opinions in bite-size form.

Once in a while, the language of architecture applied to another realm seems absolutely fitting. A recent example is n+1 assistant editor Charles Peterson’s New York Review of Books essay about the websites MySpace and Facebook. The custom, “urban culture” of the former, Peterson emphasizes, contrasts sharply—and to MySpace’s detriment—with the latter’s ongoing “suburban period,” in which homogenization of form has helped catapult Facebook to the top of the social-networking business.

Last summer, Time Inc. bought a Detroit house to serve as the home base for a multi-outlet journalism project about the city. Why? The Motor City’s rise, fall, and future, wrote editor-in-chief John Huey in a September article introducing the yearlong effort, constitute a “great American story.” In its first five months, The Detroit Blog—which reports on daily life, business, and culture—has proved to be a compelling read.