Pete Seeger, American folk singer and social activist once said, “If it can’t be reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production.” Building or renovating a home with recycled materials saves the environment and prevents landfill sites from filling up. In the building industry, deconstruction, also referred to as sustainable or green demolition, is the dismantling of selected parts of the house to be reused, recycled, or repurposed.
According to the New York Times, the municipality in Portland, Oregon was the first to put in place an ordinance requiring certain homes to be deconstructed, rather than demolished. Other cities are considering deconstruction ordinances that require the recycling of salvageable components. Shawn Wood, a building waste specialist in Portland says that deconstruction ordinances can reduce building waste but that more demand for salvaged materials is needed to drive the market.
Salvaged Material Challenges
Using salvaged material does not always save money, especially if the materials have to be refurbished. Older materials do not always conform to the standards of new building codes and certifications, and some structures that were built decades ago are built from composite material that is difficult to take apart and reuse. These factors impact on the type of waste materials builders work with.
Durability is Essential
Durability and sustainability are important factors in the choice of recycled building materials. Beams and panels made from recycled steel last longer than wood and are more affordable. If you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes or earthquakes, a steel framework will offer you stronger protection.
Rubber roofs can be made from recycled products, the decking can be produced from wood waste and recycled paper, the countertops from tree pulp and the carpets from recycled plastic bottles. Recycled materials such as plastic bottles filled with adobe are cheaper than concrete and three times as strong. Wood-plastic composites blend wood products such as bamboo, bark and pulp with polymers. Made from 50% recycled plastic and 50% wood fibers, this product is highly resistant to mold and rot and contains fewer toxic chemicals than treated wood. It is used for railings, fences, cladding and siding, prefab houses, windows, and door frames. It is durable, rot resistant and can be made into any shape and is able to withstand all weather conditions.
Finding Recyclable Building Materials
Recyclable materials can be sourced from salvage yards and from stores such as Habitat for Humanity. A lot of construction material can be sourced from construction site dumpsters where wood scraps, old cabinets, paint and bricks can be found, as well as larger items such as furniture and kitchen cabinets. Dumpster diving, the practice of searching through trash receptacles for discarded items, is technically legal in all 50 states in the USA, but some have stricter rules than others. If the dumpster is in an enclosed area or on private property, you can get into trouble for rummaging through the garbage. The best practice is to check your state’s ordinances on the issue.
Building an eco-friendly, sustainable, house using recycled materials is cheaper and keeps your carbon footprint to a minimum. A house made from recycled materials is more energy efficient, and in the property market, one of the top features putting a premium on real estate is sustainability. Going green isn’t just good for the environment, it’s a good investment in other ways too.