‘Extreme Makeover’ Earns LEED Gold

November 1, 2010

Milk crates were reused throughout the projectIf you watched “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” last night, you saw a project that took place in my own backyard.  The build for the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem, Oregon, included structural and technolgical improvements to their haunted house (The Nightmare Factory), and construction of a new dorm building.  Due to the holiday theme, the dorm didn’t get as much attention as the haunted portion, but a few of its features are worth looking at.

The dorm received LEED Gold certification, and took recycling to the ‘extreme.’  In what I thought was an innovative use of milk crates, the team created a chandelier out of them, providing not only light, but a way to signal when someone rings the doorbell.  When someone is at the door, the lights flash to signal the occupants.  The crates were all painted in bright colors and were used to encase the light bulbs.  More crates were used under the beds in the new rooms to lift the mattresses off the floor.

Each of the four bedrooms, with two beds apiece, was focused on a different type of recyclable material: paper, plastic, metal, and cardboard.  Some of the highlights included a geometric headboard out of cardboard, metal chain covered desk legs, a paper chandelier, and more milk crates.  Each of the rooms is set up with a doorbell that causes the lights to flash.  Before, the kids just walked in on each other or flipped the lightswitch to signal they wanted to come in.

Some of the more “traditional” features included solar panels and a green roof.  Lockers from the old dorm were used for kitchen cabinets and other storage areas.

A large boom box, big enough to sit on, was installed so the students could “feel” the music.  They all had smiles on their faces as they danced to the rhythm of the bass.

While construction was going on, students and family were flown to Minnesota to be fitted for state of the art hearing aids.  One kid got to hear his mother say “I love you” for the first time.  The project was a raving success.  Now the school is focused on fundraising to build on to the new dorm, as it was only designed to hold eight students.  The building included features that will make it easier to construct the additions.

Thanks to the EMHE crew, Rich Duncan Construction, The Oregon School for the Deaf, and all the Salem residents and businesses that helped out.  For more information, see the Statesman Journal’s coverage.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Easton through a Creative Commons License.



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.