Page E2.1 . 13 June 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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  • The Sustainability of Nina Maritz
  • House Recycling

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    House Recycling

    by Bob Falk and Brad Guy

    Depending on your generation, you may have been taught: "Waste not, want not." Thrift is certainly one incentive for deconstructing buildings for reuse. In addition, many of us are motivated by a desire to be environmentally sensitive, a fondness for antiques and other items from the past, a yearning to have more control over the quality of materials used in construction, or a recognition that many of the materials available for salvage are of higher quality than those produced today.

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    As with many environmentally conscious activities, deconstruction and building-material reuse offer a direct and measurable way to reduce one's negative effect on the planet. Building construction, use, and maintenance make up a resource-intensive business.

    In the United States, the construction, use, maintenance, and disposal of houses are responsible for nearly a half of the country's energy use. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 60 percent of all material (except food and fuel) used in the economy each year is consumed by the construction industry.

    There are many opportunities to reclaim and reuse building materials. In 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that the equivalent of 250,000 single-family homes are disposed of each year. This represents an estimated 1 billion-plus board feet (2.4 million cubic meters) of available salvageable structural lumber, or about 3 percent of our annual softwood timber harvest.

    Reusing this lumber could save 4,250,000 trees on 150,000 acres (61,000 hectares) of timberland every year. The amount of recoverable materials is even greater if you add nonstructural building products, such as the millions of windows, doors, and fixtures and the thousands of miles of trim work, siding, and flooring available.   >>>

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    Old barns can be valuable sources of usable framing timber, siding, and tin roofing.
    Photo: Barry Stup

    ArchWeek Image

    Care in prying up old flooring can yield reusable wood.
    Photo: Steve Culpepper/ The Taunton Press


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