Philanthropy is a powerful force for good. While we celebrate individuals who donate money, however, we sometimes forget how wealthy we are when it comes to material goods that can be donated. Emergent Structures’ MATERIALANTROPHY program is designed to celebrate people who open their doors to our organization so that we can deconstruct and reclaim materials from their houses, and then steward those materials directly into projects that serve the surrounding community.

Our debut materialanthropists are Chuck and Debra Caldwell, who, upon hearing of the work Emergent Structures was doing in Savannah Gardens way back in 2009, contacted us, and offered the keys to their recently purchased historic home. The house was built in 1866, but during a renovation in the 1970s, many of the architectural features were stripped from the house, and the entire interior—walls and ceilings—was covered with red cedar barn siding. The ground floor was similarly covered in thick pine timber. With intentions to bring the house back to its historic splendor and charm, the Caldwells asked if Emergent Structures was interested in reclaiming the materials that were installed during the previous, misguided effort. We said yes.

And since that day the house has been a training ground for deconstruction and material preparation, even as it has been the source of materials for numerous community projects throughout Savannah. The red dots in the image above represent the locations of projects that have benefited from materials reclaimed from the Jones Street house, with the size of the dots representing the relative quantity of materials delivered to each project.

As the materials end up in more projects and structures around Savannah, the story becomes more compelling. A history of ‘giving’ can be established, and the story of how many lives the Caldwells have touched through their desire to share materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill can be told. As the Caldwells so generously show, Materialanthropists make a difference!

Below are examples of the community wealth that has resulted from the Caldwell’s materialanthropy.


The Jones Street house quickly became a training ground for a diverse group of individuals. A team of science and engineering students from Dartmouth, during their Big Green Bus tour of the United States, participated in a volunteer day, a local Eagle Scout coordinated a work day for his troop, Troop 16, as a means of earning his Merit Badge, and a junior high school group from Charlotte visited to learn about historic preservation and reclamation. These are 3 of the many deconstruction events that we’ve held at the Jones St. house.


A pergola made from reclaimed materials is a centerpiece of a larger educational garden project led and funded by Emergent Structures through an IKEA grant. The Shuman Elementary garden project includes an outdoor learning area for students as they work in their organic gardens, as well as a toolshed, and a brick promenade. The Jones Street house supplied the yellow pine for the rafters, and the red cedar for the decking, lattice work and other garden features.

The Design for Ability greenhouse  which is on our construction schedule right now, will serve the Savannah High School system and be home to DesignAbility, a non-profit organization dedicated to green-jobs training for special needs populations. The Jones Street house has supplied yellow pine for rafters, and red cedar for siding, furniture and large planters.


Two local businesses purchased Jones Street materials from Emergent Structures, and their projects educate customers and passers-by on a daily basis on the value of repurposed materials. Emergent Structures partnered with SCAD’s Design for Sustainability program for the outdoor eating area at Thrive, Georgia’s first certified Green Restaurant, while the Sparetime Grill purchased materials to build its center bar.

In the name of great entertainment, creative and a good cause, Emergent Structures created a joint fund-raiser with Humane Society around a design + build competition for pet structures. Participants could shop for reclaimed materials at the Jones Street house. Emergent Structures has also arranged for items such as doors to be delivered to the local Habitat for Humanity Restore.

All of these amazing things being brought to life with the help of materials previously destined for the landfill! Thank you Debra and Chuck CALDWELL, our first official MATERIALANTHROPISTS!

And thank you, Matt Henderson and HunterMaclean for your generous IP expertise! And thank you Pimprae Hiranprueck, Adrian Perez for the photography!