REUSE ARCHITECTURAL ELEMENTS
The need to reduce the amount of construction and demolition waste by saving reusable items is greater than ever before.
Although comprehensive figures on the percent of building materials in the waste stream are not available, some data on waste wood are in the public domain.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that wood and lumber waste alone comprise 3.7 percent of the waste stream.
What does the figure 3.7 percent mean? For illustration purposes, an average-sized home with 1600 square feet may contain 20 windows, 15 doors, 14 light fixtures, 300 pieces of hardware (including hinges, knobs, pulls) and 1000 board feet of flooring. A commercial building has even more. In 1991, 545 demolition permits were issued in Hennepin County (one of seven counties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area).
In one year alone, that could mean 10,900 windows, 8,175 doors, 7,630 light fixtures, 163,500 pieces of hardware and 545,000 board feet of flooring were sent to a landfill.
The conclusions of a feasibility study of salvaging and recycling building materials found that reuse of materials, as opposed to recycling, is the best method for decreasing the amount of construction and demolition waste. The reasons for reuse include: requires less energy, less processing and less transportation; has lower adverse environmental impact; is more viable for local/small-scale operations; requires less investment capital; and involves fewer regulatory guidelines.
While there is a large supply of construction and demolition materials available, the feasibility study found an interest - one third of homeowner survey respondents and half of contractor survey respondents - would consider using second-hand building materials.
According to the study, many salvage yard customers consider used hand-crafted woodwork to be superior to new. A used solid wood paneled door is better built, more attractive and usually less expensive than its modern counterpart - a flimsy, lightweight hollow core door. Also, many traditional styles aren't readily available elsewhere except as expensive reproductions.
From a practical standpoint, saving and reusing quality items will not end the continuous construction and demolition waste, but it will reduce the volume of material that enters the waste stream. From an aesthetic standpoint, reusing architectural elements will add unmatched old world charm, beauty, and value to home improvement projects.
Even though reuse of salvage material has become more common and its reuse can add value to new and remodeled spaces, it is sad to say that only 2 to 3 percent of buildings slated for teardown are actually salvaged or deconstructed in some manner.
(1) Hennepin County Comprehensive Recycling Study
(2) Salvaging and Recycling Building Materials: Feasibility Study, David B. Mason