Home & Design

Green Scene - Deconstruction

Deconstruction offers a green alternative to demolition

Green Scene- Deconstruction

In this deconstruction by Ponte-Mellor Architects, all windows,
doors and architectural elements that could be recycled are
removed prior to demolition.
Building a green home or renovation takes a lot of research. There are many ways to make a home environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Consider looking for recycled building products—windows, doors, appliances, fixtures and even paint can be found secondhand at several area resale centers. However, it is not just what’s going up that matters when building or remodeling an environmentally conscious home. It is also what comes down.Deconstruction
When starting a remodel or tear-down, remember that all the materials being torn out are going to have to go somewhere. That’s where the idea of deconstruction versus demolition comes in. Started in 2004, DeConstruction Services in Fairfax, Virginia, specializes in “reverse engineering. We work from what the builder put in last, and move backwards,” says owner Paul Hughes.

When doing a whole-house deconstruction, Hughes says the company can salvage as much as 80 percent of the materials in the home to either reuse or recycle. While this percentage is lower for partial tear-downs and remodels, they are still able to salvage a large amount of what could otherwise end up in a landfill.

Starting with appliances, DeConstruction pulls out all the interior fixtures and trim first, donating as much as possible to such area resources as Community Forklift to be reused and resold. Recycling is divided into bins of wood, metal and shingles, and then drywall and plaster are pulled out. After gutting, workers start at the roof and pull everything apart—even all the nails from the studs—until all that is left is the concrete slab. Windows, doors and clean insulation are added to the donation piles whenever possible. Brick construction is considered “clean masonry” when it is fully gutted, and is left in place until a builder can excavate it along with the concrete and have it sent to a local aggregator to be broken down and reused in road construction.

“Our goal is to keep as much of the deconstruction out of the landfill as possible,” says Hughes. All salvageable supplies that are donated are tax-deductible. While the process as a whole is more labor intensive than a knock-down demolition, the tax deduction usually pays for most of the job. DeConstruction will also provide documentation if a builder or homeowner is seeking LEED certification.

Many of the crew at DeConstruction started out in the inner city, in at-risk situations, but have gained training and full-time work through the organization. Second Chance, Inc., in Baltimore was founded in 2003 under a similar principle—as work force development through the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office. Homes to be deconstructed are donated to the program as training sites where low-income residents can learn skills such as carpentry, craftsmanship and an understanding of how to deconstruct a building without damaging historical elements. They have branched out job-training programs into Washington, DC, and Philadelphia as well.

Second Chance’s other purpose “is landfill diversion,” says acquisitions manager Ann Fingles. Once a home is donated to the program, it will be carefully deconstructed, with historical and architectural detailing going into one of five Second Chance warehouses in Baltimore for resale. These warehouses carry everything from fireplace mantels and windows to garden ornaments and claw-foot tubs. Anything that is not selected for resale is recycled or donated to other home improvement initiatives. Second Chance offers several programs, from full tear-downs to skimming—clearing out all the fixtures and details prior to a renovation—and occasionally performs smaller room removals for kitchens and baths.

“We all need to start paying more attention to the impact construction has on the environment,” says Brad Mellor, AIA, of Ponte-Mellor Architects in Bethesda. The firm has worked closely with Second Chance on many of their projects. “During the initial meetings with the client, Ponte-Mellor will educate the client on the advantages of using organizations such as Second Chance,” explains Mellor. These include the tax benefits as well as environmental aims. “By recycling material we are reducing the amount of waste we are sending to the landfill. And, as stated by Second Chance, we are preserving our architectural heritage.”

For more information on DeConstruction Services, call (703) 280-1719 or visit www.deconstructionservices.com. For Second Chance, call (410) 385-1101 or visit www.secondchanceinc.org.

Reusing Salvaged Materials
Several area companies accept donations and re-sell used or overstock building materials. Consumers can purchase high-quality salvaged materials at a discount from these companies, while homeowners who donate materials receive tax deductions and also do their share to minimize waste.

Community Forklift, located in near Hyattsville, Maryland, offers surplus, salvaged and green construction materials, from bundles of flooring to reclaimed sinks and tubs. In addition, they frequently have unique pieces from deconstructions that are perfect for historical restorations. 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD 20781; (301) 985-5180. Visit www.communityforklift.com.

With several locations throughout Maryland and Virginia, as well as nationally, Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a nonprofit retail outlet. Like the other companies, it specializes in the resale of new and used building materials, household goods and appliances-and all the ReStore proceeds go toward building affordable housing through their local affiliates within the community. Visit www.habitat.org/env/restores.

The Loading Dock non-profit in South East Baltimore was established in 1984 to address a need to upgrade the quality of housing in Maryland in an affordable manner. Their now 42,000-square-foot facility offers affordable supplies for modest-income families and organizations in Baltimore. 2 North Kresson Street, Baltimore, MD 21224; (410) 558-3625. Visit www.loadingdock.org.

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