Since 2015, the J.M.K. Innovation Prize has been awarded annually to innovators who demonstrate excellence in the fields of social justice, environmental stewardship, and heritage conservation. Material Innovation Center (MIC)—a San Antonio–based initiative that receives and helps recirculate salvaged building materials for local construction and restoration—is one of ten awardees that took home a prize.
This year’s J.M.K. Innovation Prize had 3,209 applicants, the most in the Prize’s history since its inception. The ten awardees will each receive $175,000 over the next three years. The award connects recipients to capital as well as a network of innovators to help them navigate the startup landscape.
Landfills are often cluttered with construction and demolition debris; this ephemera has significant environmental consequences. MIC was selected for creating innovative solutions that channels this debris toward well-maintained, safe and affordable housing. “Material Innovation Center serves as the last stop before the landfill,” said Shanon Miller, director of the office of historic preservation in San Antonio.
At the office of historic preservation, Miller oversees Material Innovation Center with Stephanie Phillips, manager of the office’s first deconstruction and circular economy program. MIC works with contractors, area reuse stores in San Antonio, and corporate donors to take in excess woodwork, windows, lumber, siding and other materials when buildings get demolished. MIC then redistributes the materials for free to local communities. This helps spur affordable housing in the city while also rebuilding a pool of skilled tradespeople.
“Material Innovation Center provides a model for connecting stewardship for the environment with community-building and historic preservation,” said Justin Goldbach, J.M.K. Innovation Prize program director. “Like their fellow Prize awardees, they’re poised to reshape our world to be more sustainable and equitable. We are thrilled to support them on that journey over the coming years.”
The J.M.K. prize also awarded funding to an intitaive focused on the environmental and health threats of microplastics. Others are looking to aid specific groups, including undocumented laborers, refugee and migrant communities, law students of color, and others. The full list of recipients can be found here.