January 27, 2011


By Ann Echols

Arhitectural reclamation is taking old buildings apart to reuse the windows, doors, wood, flooring and other materials in new buildings. "Design for Disassembly" (DfD) is designing structures or products so they can easily be taken apart later for repair, reuse, adaptation, refurbishing and recycling. Imagine a building readily transforming from an open market to a warehouse to an office building to apartments as years pass and community needs change.

Architectural reclamation and DfD are growing trends in sustainable building design and construction, emerging from a global business movement focused on the "triple bottom-line": strategies that can simultaneously achieve positive outcomes for people, the planet and profit.

Architectural reclamation has triple bottom-line potential because it motivates people to employ creative problem solving in their jobs and advances the reuse of materials that may otherwise go into a landfill, resulting in satisfying jobs that help the natural environment, with profitable outcomes.

For example, Dave Bennink, owner of Washington-based international consulting firm Re-Use (2009/2010 National Building Deconstructor of the Year), recently deconstructed a 1,650-square-foot home in a day and a half, diverting more than 80 percent of the material from the landfill.

Refining techniques
As pioneers like Bennink refine techniques and train crews, deconstruction's costs are coming in line with traditional demolition and dumping, making it an increasingly feasible option even for contractors under tight cost constraints while reducing natural resource consumption and processing and slowing landfill growth.

Here in Centre County, there's growing activity in building deconstruction and nonprofit sale of used building materials. MorningStar, the Penn State Solar Decathlon house at Park Avenue and Porter Road in State College is a LEED-certified structure containing used building materials. It's innovative and energy-efficient, required a team effort of students and faculty and can be disassembled, relocated and reassembled as needed.

Reclaimed building materials are sold locally at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Bellefonte. Manager Jennifer Wolfe says ReStore saved 90 tons of used building materials from landfills last year while supporting jobs and generating money to help build affordable housing in our area.

This is the future of triple bottomline achievements: engaging communities of people in environmentally responsible infrastructure design and construction, sparking innovation while saving money for builders and generating revenue for resale businesses.

Creative problem-solving
And there's still plenty of room in the movement for creative problem-solving. Lead paint and asbestos in a building increase deconstruction costs because they're toxic substances regulated by the EPA. And the U.S. tax code structure is currently not clear about how filers can write off a structure as a tax-deductible donation when a charity manages deconstruction by deconstruction trainees.

Architectural reclamation and design for disassembly have a lot of potential to reshape our built landscapes while bringing people together in the work of creating sustainable communities.

Posted Jan. 27, 2011

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