Re-using of materials has long been the mantra of our schoolchildren, and many industries have also seen the wisdom of providing for the recycling of the product in its end use. For example, in the US, 95% of “junked” cars are processed for recycling, with about 75% of the car’s manufactured content mostly metals) eventually being recycled for raw material use.
|Concrete Excavator w/ Magnet|
More difficult is the repurposing of all the miscellaneous materials from deconstruction. Here again, there is a business opportunity. Instead of paying to have a building demolished, an owner can hire a deconstruction arm of a non-profit company (such as Habitat Re-Store) to remove the property as a donation to a material re-use store. The owner gets a tax deduction, and the store gets paid for receiving merchandise. They get paid again for selling it. Of course, the cost of removal may exceeds the removal revenue, but even then – Habitat uses volunteers!
Renovation companies are growing. From my experience, the difference between a successful operation and a big junkyard is in the systematic documenting of materials, making this available on the web, and keeping good business practices. Overstuffed, cat-infested warehouses just get more material, tend to hike up their prices to overcome the low sales, and eventually go out of business. It is a business.
|Repurposed Snow Fencing|
The problem in developing a business model in construction which could accommodate the use of repurposed materials is the extra cost of sourcing this material and adjusting the construction process to accommodate for special installation. Such a scenario could be addressed through a “joint venture,” so to speak, with the owner as the scouting party. A scope would need to be developed for acceptable type of materials, and specifications developed to help guide owners choices. The material types might start with reliable local supplies of recycled materials. While this requires a higher degree of organization on the contractor’s part, in order to be more flexible without upsetting the core building process, I see evidence of this trend growing. Not only for homeowners, but also commercial properties – where owners are looking for more unique architecture.
It is time for a mind shift, beyond the extraction of raw materials for the manufacturing of new goods, and beyond the sourcing of materials from chemistry labs. There is an abundant source of innovative materials awaiting us in the form of existing materials ready to be repurposed for another life-cycle. Time to think of de-construction as intrinsically linked with re-construction.