Monday, August 20, 2012


Free building materials, why not?

By Brett Marlo DeSantis

Published in Cities Unite, August 2012

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you already have the materials for your next project right in front of you? Did I mention they are already bought and paid for?

Imagine removing an entire wall and transporting it to be reused as an entire wall. That’s just what is beginning to happen!

Imagine the piles of waste diverted from the landfill, the transportation, labor and dump fees you will save.

There are over 300,000 buildings a year that get demolished and approximately twenty percent of all solid waste comes from the construction industry.

There are alternatives to demolition such as deconstructing a building using a systematic approach and salvaging the materials. Deconstruction allows for the materials within a building to have a new life when the building can no longer be used as a whole.

There are deconstruction professionals that can assist you to ascertain the cost, time commitment and what is worth salvaging.

If you are employing deconstruction techniques in your project, you may be able to fast track your permit process.  As it stands now, to do this you will need to divert approximately 70 percent from the landfill and 20 percent of that amount has to be in a reusable form.  

Get a head start on your permit process. In some counties, such as King County, you can go straight to the top of the pile for permitting. Wow, talk about moving to the head of the class! There are tax incentives as well.

So you have now rescued your materials, what will you do with your treasure? You can reuse your finds, or donate the materials to a non-profit, sell or auction the items, or you can even give them away.

Are we currently throwing building materials, money and therefore jobs in the landfill? Deconstruction is done on a local level. We can support our communities by creating local jobs and keeping our materials to be reused and resold locally. Let’s keep our money in our communities.

You can even set up a mill onsite to reclaim the lumber…now that’s keeping it local.

Maybe you are already recycling some of your demolished materials. Great! What if we reuse before recycling?

Reusing materials is the best way to utilize the embodied energy that went into making that material, such as the energy it took to extract the natural resources, manufacture and transport that material. You can still recycle the materials after they no longer have a useful life.

So what will make deconstruction even easier to tackle? We design buildings with deconstruction in mind.

We can work towards not designing waste into a structure because when we design waste into a structure, that’s exactly what we get out of it.

Consider adaptable spaces, demountable panels, modules that form complete units, floating floors and using fasteners.

Imagine a society where deconstruction is the mainstream choice for building removal. Consider the history you might incorporate into your next space, memories to save and reinterpret.

What might you salvage from your built environment?