'Deconstruction' breathes new life into old materials

July 23, 2008 7:24:54 PM PDT
In the construction industry, there's a growing emphasis on building green -- using the highest-technology for the greatest efficiency. But one company is focusing on tearing down. They believe even demolitions should be green. It's the opposite of construction. Instead of building up, the crew is tearing down -- one railing, one beam and one nail at a time. The process, called deconstruction, is the next step in the building boom, according to some developers. A non-profit company called The ReUse People is leading the way in the industry.

"Over 40 percent of the material that goes in the landfill right now is from construction and demolition debris," said Ken Ortiz, The ReUse People of America. "The ReUse People's mission is to make sure the greatest amount of reusable building material stays out of the landfill and one of the ways we do this is through deconstruction.

Here's how it works: when a property is set to be demolished, instead of bringing in a bulldozer to flatten it -- a crew comes in and spends weeks taking it apart by hand and salvaging its contents.

"We go from the appliances, the cabinets, the flooring, right down to the studs, the windows and all the exterior parts of the house. It's our hope to get approximately 85 to 90 percent of the material as reusable material and the rest we'll try to recycle," said Ortiz.

Some of the items recovered are donated to Habitat For Humanity and other non-profit organizations. Others will be sold to needy families for pennies on the dollar.

The cost of deconstruction is about double that of bulldozing, but the tax benefits for donating materials help offset the costs. Bob Wolkoff's company will be building condos on this land. Beyond the costs, he believes deconstructing is just good karma.

"It's a win-win for everybody. It helps the environment. It helps other people. But it also helps me. So I think it is something that's a holistic approach that just a little bit more thought has created a good solution for everybody," said Wolkoff.

The ReUse People do not limit their projects to tear-downs. They will also come in and deconstruct a room -- like a kitchen or a bathroom -- that's set to be remodeled. For information on The ReUse People, visit the website TheReUsePeople.org


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