Deconstruct Before You Remodel

Mary Butler

Let's imagine that you're planning to invest in the most energy efficient, ecologically-minded building materials available for your green remodel. Energy Star appliances. Bamboo floors. Duel-flush toilets. Solar panels to power LED lights. And your yard? Low-water xeriscaping, of course.

But what will happen to all your old stuff?

Renovation and demolition projects account for more than 136 million tons of waste each year across the U.S. If you want to take your green remodel to yet another level, don't contribute to the problem. Consider hiring a company to "deconstruct" your remodel--and it shouldn't cost you any more than standard demolition and disposal. Crews take apart rooms, piece by piece, rather than sledge hammering walls and tearing out floors and fixtures.

Deconstructing Is Clean and Cost-Effective
Most every material from a demolition can be reused or recycled: wood, fiberglass insulation, glass, copper, lead, aluminum pipes and conduit metal, silver and gold from electrical parts, staircases, asphalt shingles and pavement, bricks, plastics, drywall gypsum, as well as kitchen cabinets, doors, flooring, appliances and plumbing fixtures.  

Repurposing building materials can save money, resources, and landfill space, as well as stimulate the economy by supporting the growing recycling industry. Additionally, deconstruction is a safe and responsible way to deal with toxic materials such as asbestos and fluorescent light bulbs.  

In fact, deconstruction makes so much sense that several cities and states have passed laws requiring it. Portland, Oregon requires job-site recycling on all construction projects costing more than $25,000, In Atherton, California, 50 percent of all construction, renovation, and demolition waste must be diverted from landfills. The city of Chicago passed a mandatory 50-percent construction and demolition recycling rate and makes all buildings slated for demolition available for deconstruction.  

So How Do You Do It?
Many contractors signal their commitment to reuse and recycling by branding themselves as "green builders." Consult the nonprofit Building Materials Reuse Association's state-by-state directory of deconstruction professionals. The association also lists architectural salvage yards and other businesses and organizations that support its mission. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, tips and advice for how to proceed is readily available through reuse and recycling advocacy organizations including the Deconstruction Institute and Waste to Wealth.

While it might take a little longer to deconstruct areas of your home slated for upgrades, just think of how satisfying it could be to enjoy your green remodel knowing that it was ecologically minded start to finish.

The New Rules Project
Building Materials Reuse Association

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

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