The cycle of construction and demolition encompasses many players, including green demolition firms. The consumer has an important role to play as well in this cycle. Just as homeowners can make a difference by selecting earth-friendly building materials, they can also effect change by being choosy about demolition. The average 2,500 square-foot home can contain more than 25 tons of debris. With a green demolition approach, upwards of 80% of that tonnage may be reused and recycled. Portland homeowners who are building new homes on old sites can become informed demolition consumers by understanding the how green residential demolition works. Ultimately, consumers’ preferences drive the residential demolition and construction market. As more consumers prioritize green demolition, it will naturally gain traction in the industry.
Green Residential Demolition 101 for Consumers
Understand the Benefits for your Demolition Contractor. Empathy can get you far. By understanding the benefits that salvaging efforts can bring to demolition contractors, you can advocate for your green home demolition project. Here are some insights into how salvaging efforts benefit demolition contractors:
• According to the National Demolition association, members earn 20-50% of their revenue by recycling materials that would otherwise be discarded.
• Following green demolition methods makes it easier for contractors to meet local and federal demolition cleanup regulations.
• Salvaging and recycling efforts can save demolition contractors money on landfill fees.
• Green demolition firms can win new projects by including LEED certification information in their proposals. LEED points are available for green demolition approaches. For instance, certain LEED points may be earned by diverting at least 75% of demolition materials from landfills.
• The cost difference between traditional and green demolition is often nominal. Green approaches often decrease demolition costs. For instance, more recycling means less expense for dumpster rentals. Moreover, savvy demolition firms can often offset green demolition costs through tax donation benefits.
Seek Salvageable Fixtures. Before tearing down the walls of an old home, contractors can strip every usable fixture. This is called the “soft strip” portion of a demolition/deconstruction project. Old sinks, electrical components, doors, and toilets may be carefully removed and donated or sold to Portland demolition salvage and recycling organizations.
Preserve Reusable Building Components. Wood beams, glulam beams, steel, and wiring can be reused in new building projects. Windows, pipes, and bricks are a few more building materials that can often be repurposed. Contractors must be careful in removing these components, in order to preserve their usability in a new project.
Sort Materials for Recycling. Building materials that cannot be reused can often be recycled. Carpeting, drywall, porcelain tiles, and many other materials fall into this category. Once the soft strip is complete, the building envelope remains, and green demolition contractors can remove remaining salvageable materials. To maximize recyclability, homeowners should ensure that their demolition contractors are carefully sorting such materials into discrete piles. Mixing of materials could make a load unsalvageable. For instance, a single nail can render an entire load of carpet unusable, because the nail could easily damage carpet salvage equipment.
Construct with Recycling in Mind. New homeowners can adopt a “cradle to grave” approach by working with contractors and architects to design a building that will be easy to deconstruct at a later point. If home materials may be deconstructed and recycled in new structures, that’s even better—then homeowners would be supporting a “cradle to cradle” approach, in which current materials are seen for their reusability in new projects.
Portland has recently seen a boom in home demolition. Portland paper The Oregonian reports that the City of Portland approved 275 home demolition permits in 2013, a 43% increase over a previous demolition peak in 2007. Homeowners can boost the eco-friendliness of this residential demolition surge by advocating for the earth-friendly approaches listed above.