Building deconstruction, or “construction in reverse,” is the most effective way to preserve the embodied energy of the materials that comprise the built environment. Deconstruction is defined as the comprehensive dismantlement of building components, specifically for reuse, resale, recycling and waste management. Compared to traditional demolition in which a structure is torn down as quickly as possible and waste is deposited into commercial landfills, careful consideration is given to deconstruction and waste redirection throughout the entire process. Deconstruction focuses on giving salvageable materials a new life once the building as a whole can no longer continue and addresses the appropriate disposal of waste.
However, the biggest drawback to deconstruction is the extra time and labour required by the process, thereby adding to its upfront premium. To offset this disadvantage compared to traditional demolition, most deconstruction firms are non-profits, thus providing a tax deduction to the property owner for the appraised value of any materials salvaged for reuse. Deconstruction Management Inc. (DMI) is a for-profit entity that provides on-site management of deconstruction contractors and facilitates the reuse, resale and redirection of salvageable materials. In a recent project, we successfully returned 70 per cent of the proceeds received on the sale of reclaimed materials back to the property owner (a non-profit with no incentive to receive a tax deduction for donations).
One of the industry’s primary goals is to identify potential consumers of reclaimed building materials that are prepared to pay cash to give a building component a new home. One such solution to date is the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore project where local Habitat for Humanity affiliates own and operate a retail store that sells building materials reclaimed from deconstruction projects or donated by contractors. These stores have been a valuable component of the independent affiliates to offset their reduced operating cash flows due to the recent economic downturn. There are many other local outlets for the resale of reclaimed building materials, most of which are non-profit organizations that not only sell, but will accept donated materials in good working condition in exchange for a tax deduction.
In her 2009 report, Dr. Rachel Weber concludes a study on the demand for a large scale C&D material reuse store in the greater Chicago are with the following statement:
A growing ecological awareness is influencing consumption patterns… buying used has the potential to save not only consumers money but also building owners and developers who will likely have to pay higher fees for dumping debris in landfill in the near future. This is why building material reuse stores across the country are reporting increased sales despite the current recession. Moreover, on the labour market side, deconstruction is becoming an oft-mentioned “green job” that has the potential to replace some of the manufacturing jobs that have been lost, while offering a path to additional opportunities in the construction industry and the skilled trades.