Deconstruction: New Opportunities for Salvage

Old buildings are constantly being remodeled or torn down to make room for new
ones. Because time is a critical element on many projects, the removal of a
building is usually done as quickly as possible. The standard practice of
demolition involves smashing a structure so the pieces can be quickly and
easily taken to the landfill. Although this saves time, there are considerable
costs in terms of pollution, wasted resources and landfill space.

Reusing existing buildings and materials reclaims resources and significantly
cuts waste. Deconstruction, the systematic dismantling of a structure, can be
used in various degrees in order to salvage usable materials. This can range
from reuse of an entire structure or foundation, to select assemblies and
systems, to the careful removal of specific materials or items.

Things to Consider when Conducting Salvage Activities

Conduct an assessment to identify salvageable materials. A walk-through with
deconstruction, demolition, and general contractors can help to identify items
that can be reused in any planned new structure or on other current jobs.

Obtain "as-built" plans; these will help to identify structural members and
other hidden features of a building that are not visible during a walk-through.
If time does not allow for extensive salvage, target the easy things.

"Cherry-picking" can yield valuable appliances, light fixtures, hardware,
architectural millwork and other custom accessories.

Consider materials not only for their utility, but also for their aesthetic
value. Reclaimed materials, particularly old growth or rare woods, are very
desirable as decorative and finish treatments.

Advertise a deconstruction pre-sale: interested individuals can remove and
purchase items before demolition begins.

Although some materials can be reused, there are many that will need to be
removed. Donating unused and salvaged building materials can be accomplished
through material exchanges or nonprofit organizations. Many organizations can
provide tax donation paperwork.

Opportunities For Reclaimed Wood

One of the largest components of construction and demolition waste is wood. As
old growth forests continue to be depleted, timber prices will only increase.
The demand for reclaimed wood products will also rise. Increased deconstruction
and salvage activities can help meet this demand.

People who work with wood know that the best quality wood comes from old growth
trees. Old growth lumber offers a close, clear grain with few knots, and is
generally harder and more stable with less defects than wood from younger
trees. Compared with virgin wood that can be purchased today, old growth lumber
can span more than twice the distance of younger, lighter woods. Another
benefit of older framing lumber is that it can be re-milled. Today a
two-by-four piece of dimensional lumber is actually a bit smaller (only 1.5
inches by 3.5 inches). Older two-by-fours were actually right on, leaving an
allowance of a quarter inch on each surface for re-planing.

Old growth woods also are aesthetically desirable, and are sought after by
craftsmen for use in furniture making, art pieces, and finish treatments.
Reclaimed wood can provide all the benefits of old growth wood, but without the
environmental costs. The nail holes, fastener marks, and the rich, aged color
of used lumber pieces can add to their appeal. Only 5 percent of North
America's old growth forests are still standing, while thousands of board feet
of old growth lumber in buildings is demolished and landfilled every year. This
is changing, with more and more lumber from old buildings being reclaimed every

Reuse Versus Recycling

When evaluating alternatives for diverting waste, reuse should be favored over
recycling wherever possible. The time that it takes to implement careful
removal of items should be weighed against their market value and the
availability of local outlets.

There are many items that, if still in good condition, will find a place in the
market. However, damaged materials will need to be evaluated carefully. If
materials cannot be reused, recycling can provide a cost effective and
environmentally preferable alternative to disposal.

Further info

AplusA-online.de - Source: Environmental Protection