Everyday people drop loads of money for expensive 'salvaged' building materials, solar power, non-toxic building materials and a prime location. But often a very simple and very green building technique is overlooked: deconstruction. While not all buildings can be saved, by carefully taking them apart rather than carelessly knocking it down, you can reap the benefits of high quality materials, unique building elements and sometimes extra cash in your pocket.
Generally it's best to avoid undisturbed properties to build new homes, but not all existing developed lots are worth saving. Sometimes the house is in too poor structural condition to remain standing, or the cost to upgrade to current energy efficient standards is not cost effective. So deconstruction is a great way to salvage what you can in a responsible, but also fun way. Many of our clients are opting to go this route, and here are some our tips for others:
- First know that by deconstructing your building you are diverting so much waste from going to the landfill. According to the Deconstruction Institute 92% of building-related construction & demolition waste is from renovation and demolition. And while it may seem just as good to recycle, it's really better to try reuse first.
- Large or small, most construction projects can benefit from deconstruction. If it's a small project you can often deconstruct yourself by saving light and electrical fixtures, plumbing fixtures and decorative millwork. Visit the Building Materials Reuse Association for how-to and best practices guides. Anything more complicated should be handled by a professional, especially if there's a chance that hazardous materials are present.
- Deconstruction takes more planning than a standard demolition — coordinate which items should be included in your new house with your architect; all other items to be donated/bought, recycled or tossed should be coordinated with your contractor or deconstruction expert.
- Deconstruction also takes more time than demolition — depending on the size of the project it can take several weeks whereas demolition might take one week, max. Time also means money, so make sure you have a good understanding of how this will affect your timeline and budget.
- Some items may need a little facelift or upgrading before they're reinstalled. For example nothing can come close to old, historic windows, but they will need to be brought up to current energy standards. Consider taking these to a refurbishing company who can give them they upgrade they need, while maintaining their historic integrity.
- Not all materials can be reused as they were originally intended. For example structural lumber, while high in quality, might not be acceptable to a structural engineer. However old wood is often quite good looking and can be used as 'decorative' beams, columns, etc.
- While hiring a deconstruction company costs money and is more expensive than demolition, you can make money off of it, or at least break even. Through the deconstruction process you will 'sell' your goods to the deconstruction company who can either sell it back to you, or give you access to their stock of salvaged goods for a trade or sum of money. Anything else is 'donated' and written off on your tax returns. So depending on how you choose to deconstruct you can end up profiting from being green.
Items to Consider Reusing
- Gates & Fences
- Decorative Millwork
- Countertops & Tile
- Plumbing Fixtures
- Lighting & Electrical Fixtures
- Fireplace Mantles
- Brick & Stone
If you don't have the opportunity to deconstruct, you can still use salvaged materials in your homes. Check out some of our posts about salvage goods retailers:
Visit these sites for more valuable information:
(Image: Flickr member Wolfgang Staudt licensed for use under Creative Commons)