Deconstruction of a home to reuse or resell its materials is
gaining popularity as a more environment-friendly alternative to
demolition. Sometimes it even saves money.
From Florida to Washington State, homeowners are discovering an
environmentally friendly - and, increasingly, cheaper - alternative
to demolition: home deconstruction.
This labor-intensive, job-creating approach takes unwanted
buildings apart systematically and turns the pieces into new home
construction or tax-deductible donations to nonprofit reuse centers,
thus saving them from the landfill.
Construction and demolition debris take up more than one-third of
landfill space annually, but on average, more than 60 percent of a
house - and in some cases, more than 75 percent - could be reused or
recycled, says Bradley Guy, who researches architecture and
deconstruction at The Catholic University of America.
"Deconstruction, although it's difficult to do, offers a lot of
opportunities," says Jesse White, creator of
deconstructioninstitute.com and owner of an architectural salvage
store in Sarasota, Fla.
Of course, building materials have been reused for as long as
there have been buildings. But where salvaging typically involves
cherry-picking the pieces of most obvious value - stained-glass
windows, ironwork - deconstruction reclaims as much of the building
Jack Williams and his wife, Jane York, spent 28 years in a 1950s
ranch house in Leawood, Kan. When they decided to remodel and add an
addition, they learned that their house's unstable foundation meant
they would have to remove the house and start over on the site.
Mr. Williams had watched the demolition of a neighborhood house
and regretted seeing still-useful material going to the dump.
"I'm driven by conservation because I hate to see stuff wasted,"
says Williams, a retired electrical engineer.
Working with the local Habitat for Humanity office, they found a
certified deconstruction appraiser in Denver who traveled to Kansas
to evaluate their home's materials. A local builder undertook the
Williams and Ms. York ultimately donated or reused 82 percent of
their home's materials, Williams estimates - everything except the
insulation and drywall.
Appliances and other materials were hauled off to Habitat
ReStore, a nonprofit reuse store affiliated with Habitat for
Humanity. Scrap lumber was chipped into mulch. The foundation,
driveway, and chimney were crushed onsite, becoming backfill around
the new foundation. …