Green Demolition: Building Green from the Ground Up

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via The Green Economy Post: Green Demolition: Building Green from the Ground Up – A Vital Side of Sustainable Development

The conventional way to bring down a building is the good ol’ wrecking ball. The building is collapsed into a huge pile of rubble and then transferred to commingled debris dumpsters. All materials are lumped together, many of which take several generations to decompose. Steel – 100 years. Aluminum – 300 years. Plastic – 450 years. Glass never decomposes. Then there is the hazardous waste – – who knows that harm is lurking there. Regardless, this conventional, commingled trash heap isn’t going anywhere soon because, no matter the nature of the material, it is all going to the same place – landfill.

There is a better way.

Thankfully, the easy alternative is “green” site preparation. Sure it takes a little more planning and coordination but really it just comes down to thoughtful deconstruction, site-sorting, and mindful demolition. With some foresight and creativity, landfill becomes the last option for site preparation by-products. Instead, the life cycle of the by-products is extended… and everyone wins… and you might even get a tax break for your green efforts.

This life-cycle extension is at the core of one facet of sustainability that we strive to practice in all we do… cradle to cradle construction. The materials that are “born” to build one structure are recaptured via mindful demolition and “reborn” by reuse or recycling.

Deconstruction has two distinct phases. First is the soft-strip where the structural interior and exterior are scoured for reusable and recyclable materials. Reuse should always be the paramount goal, whether the materials are to be reused on-site as part of the new project or integrated somewhere off-site. During this phase, items like reclaimed wood, brick, and rock and reusable or recyclable fixtures and furniture are extracted. By the time this first phase is complete, there should be nothing much left but the structural envelope i.e, walls, roof, and foundation and supporting members. Continue Reading →

Demolition or Deconstruction?

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Demolition and Deconstruction – aren’t they effectively the same? In a sense yes, as each requires the removal of a building and/or its contents. But this is where most similarities end – here one day and gone the next day (or two…). Demolition is the destructive removal and disposal of the building and/or contents with a total disregard for material salvage. Tear it down, toss the materials in a dumpster and transport everything to a landfill for disposal. On the other hand, Deconstruction selectively dismembers the materials that make up the building. Today Deconstruction is “green speak” for the removal of materials with the intent to reuse, recycle, or incorporate into a Waste Management Plan (WMP). 

What are the issues to consider when determining whether to select Demolition or Deconstruction? There are 2 fundamental factors to consider – costs and the environmental benefits associated with Deconstruction. First is the cost factor, and this can be somewhat difficult to accurately assess. Some studies show the cost to be 2 to 3 times as much for Deconstruction as opposed to Demolition. However, with Deconstruction you can factor in adjustments such as the market value and after-tax benefits of the salvaged materials. The leading authority on Deconstruction and Reuse is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has recently focused a great deal of attention on Waste as it relates to Resource Conservation. Or as the EPA refers, the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Additional information relating to cost comparisons can be reviewed at these sites: The ReUse People and Building Abatement Demolition Company, Inc.

Builder Magazine has an article titled Picking Up the Pieces that exemplifies the many benefits of sustainable deconstruction. The article follows the process of clearing an urban infill lot for the New American Home 2011.