04 May Building Green Where You Least Expect It
Building Green Where You Least Expect It
Deconstruction is a major recycling opportunity. While many would embrace that new building should deserve modern and new material, very few relate to the idea. Historically, copper and similar high value components were held up high in finding residual value in a building, this may just be short-sighted.
More than ever, we live in an age conscious of its responsibility to the earth and to each other. With as many choices we have when considering our impact on the environment we often try to mesh as many environmentally responsible behaviors into as much of our lives as possible. When it comes to building and all the logging and processing of raw materials needed, environmental responsibility almost gets pushed back as an area of least or little importance. However, one way contractors and builders are becoming more ecologically friendly is using pre-existing materials from structures already targeted for demolition. This is called deconstruction.
Contractors, taxpayers and eco-minded people are beginning to understand that a sow’s ear of a home or building can become a silk purse of recycling opportunity. When an existing building is targeted for demolition, it would seem easier to just demolish and go straight into the cleanup. In truth there may be many items inside that can be recycled and reused for other building projects or even as charitable donations. Flooring, doors, cabinetry, even light and electrical fixtures can all be reused. Copper pipes and wiring, siding, roofing, and sometimes windows are all perfectly acceptable either to donate as building materials or to use in a new green construction. It’s even becoming more common to see finishing items like masonry, rock, ceramic tile and brick reused in this fashion.
Deconstruction is performed by an experienced team of professionals who carefully work through each room of the building targeted for demolition. The deconstruction team safely removes any and all usable materials which are then sorted for repurposing. Cost wise, this may be initially more expensive than demolition but may be offset somewhat by tax credits received from donating the pre-owned materials.
The idea of deconstruction is not a new concept; remodelers have been repurposing salvageable items for use in other projects or even in other areas of the same project for many years. Remodelers also use social networks, such as The Freecycle Network, to list recyclable building materials. The deconstruction of buildings helps lead to a lower need for new resources, leading in turn to emissions and energy reductions from the processing and manufacture of new building materials. Since deconstruction is often done on-site, more energy and emissions are saved in transporting materials from point to point. Nearly 20% of the solid waste stream diverted to landfills is from conventional demolition and construction. Deconstructions reduce the amount of waste taking space in landfills. A standard 2,000 square foot wood frame home can be deconstructed and create nearly 6,000 board feet of reusable lumber.
As the process of deconstruction becomes increasingly common, it will begin influencing not only how a building is used at the end of its life but how it is designed. The entire life cycle of a building can be created in advance with an eye toward environmentally sustainable structures. Deconstruction may not be for everyone now but one day it very well could be the norm.