Extreme Recycling, PDX: Ultimate Remodel

Remodeling costs, on average, will run you $300 to $500 per square foot. But a green-minded architect-and-wife team in Portland, Ore., managed a total renovation of their home for just $134 per square foot, and that includes the 4.5-kilowatt solar power system and ground source heat pump.

The key? Radical recycling, and a whole lot of sweat equity.

portland extreme recycling house

image ©EarthTechling

When Corey and Deb Omey embarked on a major renovation of their 1925 North Portland home, they decided to forego the demolition dumpster and go ultra-green, utilizing recycled and reclaimed materials wherever possible. Many of these were “harvested” on site,  including not just materials from the original home, but a cedar tree cut from the front yard (to clear solar access for the rooftop photovoltaic system) that ultimately wound up as cabinetry in the home’s bedroom closets.

portland house, recycled materials

image via Corey and Deb Omey

Beyond that, the couple focused on procuring whatever they needed for the project through Portland’s burgeoning network of reclaimed/recycled materials, which includes such resources as The ReBuilding Center (a kind of Home Depot composed exclusively of recycled building materials), Building Material Recycling and Lovett Deconstruction. But the resources to do to the same, according to Corey Omey — a LEED-accredited architect with Ernest R. Munch Architects, as well as the project’s designer and construction coordinator — are available to just about anyone.

“We are fortunate that Portland has one of the best networks of rebuilding resources in the world,” Omey told us, “but resources like the Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores, Craigslist, Freecycle and ‘seconds’ from different types of manufacturers are available almost anywhere.” (“Seconds” consist of post-production rejects from local manufacturers.)

portland recycled house

image ©EarthTechling

The result is a new home with a lot of history: the kitchen counters were once bowling alley lanes, the front walkway pavers were made from granite countertop remnants, and the main beam of the front porch was a “blowdown” from the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. Reused mortgage signs were used to sheath the walls, scraps of metal from a local steel yard wound up in the home’s artistic guard rails, and doors once part of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh ranch’s hotel near Antelope, Ore., were reincarnated, so to speak, in the home’s basement.

“The materials and process personalize the house,” Omey said. “There is a story behind everything we found and incorporated into the finished product.”

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply May 25, 2012


    I don’t mind city trees being removed, the whole ‘city’ thing reformed the landscape, there’s nothing natural about it. That being said, trees should be concentrating to the north and west side of the home and the South side of the road/street, to reduce over heating of home and street.

  • Reply May 25, 2012


    Are the signs replacing plywood or siding?

  • Reply May 28, 2012


    The Rajneesh ranch was at the Big Muddy ranch, not in Antelope.  There was no Rajneesh hotel in Antelope.

    • Reply May 28, 2012


      Thanks for your note. We’ve changed the story to say “near” Antelope.
      Pete Danko
      Managing Editor, EarthTechling

Leave a Reply