Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Reuse when you Remodel

A growing number of homeowners, architects and builders are trying to reuse or recycle construction materials during remodel projects, for reasons both environmental and aesthetic.

For example, architect Anthony Garrett, of Bilow Garrett Group in Ridgefield Park, NJ, recently renovated a building in Hoboken.  He reclaimed the wooden floor joists and trucked them to Montville Twp, where they were reused as flooring and exposed beams in a planned mixed-use development.  He explained, "“I can’t think of anything more sustainable than that; there’s an embedded energy in that material that we salvage, and we don’t have to cut any more trees down.”

Construction waste can total 25-50% of the stuff in landfills, and this waste of resources has spawned interest in salvaging building materials.  Anne Nicklin, executive director of the Building Materials Reuse Association, an Oregon-based trade group, said, "Reused materials are not just better for the environment; they also can be higher quality.  You can’t buy old-growth timber at home improvement stores, but you can find it in a building that’s coming down.”

The trend can be seen in faster permits issued by municipalities for deconstruction, rather than demolition, in training for federal workers on salvaging building materials, and the increase in non-profit outlets creating a marketplace.  Habitat for Humanity's ReStores are nationwide, and Build It Green in Queens are two examples.  They both accept materials and give discounts to buyers.

Green Demolitions, in CT, targets affluent homeowners who just want to remodel.  By donating materials to his company, homeowners can save disposal costs, plus get a tax deduction, because Green Demolitions’ profits go to support addiction treatment programs.  The company sold 600 kitchens last year in its 3 stores.  Most were donated by homeowners, but 1/6 by kitchen remodeling contractors.  They estimate their efforts kept 2 million pounds of debris out of the landfills.

As reported by, "Reusing or recycling materials can help builders get the environmental stamp of approval known as LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental design. The LEED certification is awarded by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, which gives builders credit for keeping materials out of landfills.  Because reusing materials requires careful deconstruction of a room or building, it is usually more time-consuming and can be more expensive than simple demolition. But it also doesn’t create the clouds of dust—potentially laden with asbestos or lead paint—created by demolition."

A decade ago, “the marketplace was unsophisticated in its ability to effectively divert a large amount of materials from the landfill,” said Daniel Topping, an architect with NK Architects in Morristown, N.J. But it’s a lot easier these days to find a new home for old materials. “It’s just a little more legwork,” Topping said.

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Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor

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