Recycling is expanding from newspapers and bottles to entire houses as foreclosures, tax credits, and landfill costs prompt businesses and non-profit organizations to salvage materials from old homes.
Stores are springing up to sell used lumber, appliances, cabinetry, and flooring. Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that builds and rehabs homes, has 550 such outlets, called “ReStores.” Habitat’s Mark Andrews says the number is growing “almost daily.” He expects 100 more stores in the next year.
“It’s exploded all over the country” in five to seven years, consultant David Johnston says about the trend to deconstruct rather than demolish homes.
Owners get a tax credit for donating goods and peace of mind for not dumping into landfills, says Johnston, founder of What’s Working, a Colorado-based firm that consults on sustainable building.
People who do the work say there are no national figures but business is booming:
The ReUse People, a non-profit in Oakland, deconstructs more than 200 homes each year in several states, up from about 100 in 2005, and has more than quadrupled its warehouse capacity in five years, its president, Ted Reiff, says.
Dave Bennick, who runs RE-USE Consulting in Bellingham, Wash., has clients in 38 states and says he has taught deconstruction to 10% more groups each year since 2007, many aiming to put jobless people back to work. He says most of his recent workload deals with abandoned foreclosures, primarily in Rust Belt cities hit hard by the recession.
Non-profit Second Chance in Baltimore deconstructs 75 houses annually plus parts of 200 to 300 other buildings, up from five homes in 2003, founder Mark Foster says. He says his warehouse space is 150,000 square feet, up from 15,000 square feet.
“People are looking for products that are gently used but one-third the price,” Foster says, explaining why his annual sales have increased from less than $500,000 in 2003 to more than $2 million.
“They also want quality,” he says, adding that lumber and hardwood floors in old homes are often superior to those in newer ones.
Reiff says 75%-80% of most homes can be reused.
He says deconstruction reflects society’s growing desire to reuse things. “We don’t throw away clothes. We take them to Goodwill,” he says. “Why do we throw away building materials, which are worth a lot more than a shirt?”
Wendy Koch (c) Copyright 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.