Green Demolition Derby
It’s hard to wear out two-by-fours. Yet crews throw out tons of perfectly useable construction material every time someone decides to tear down a house and put up something new.
More than a third of Houston’s trash comes from building and demolition, according to the city. Recently, though, some homeowners have found a green alternative in deconstruction — the careful disassembly of an unwanted structure. Crews with Northwest Harris County Habitat for Humanity can recycle 80 to 90 percent of a deconstructed building under ideal circumstances, with the salvaged material sold in the organization’s ReStore.
“The store is like a Good Will outlet to generate funds to support the mission," ReStore Project Manager Carolyn Stevens says. "So those funds allow us to buy more materials to build houses.”
So far, volunteers have salvaged material from more than 100 buildings, from mansions to offices. Every project is tailored to the property. Some owners simply invite Habitat to glean choice materials like hardwood flooring before a standard demolition. Others hire a crew of between four and 25 insured volunteers to demolish the entire structure, usually after having the donated material’s value appraised for a substantial tax write-off.
It’s a labor intensive process, and the Deconstruction Institute in Florida estimates that deconstruction costs twice as much as demolition. But the tax savings often outweigh that cost, and the organization offers a rough calculator to assist curious homeowners.
Houstonians also have the option to donate unwanted building materials to the city’s year-old Reuse Warehouse, which distributes them for free to non-profit organizations. Additionally, Historic Houston’s Salvage Warehouse accepts donations and, like the ReStore, sells a wide range of lumber, fixtures, windows, flooring and more.
Even if you’re not planning to tear down your house any time soon, deconstruction offers a way for anyone to help reduce our community’s impact on the environment.
“We always need more help," Stevens says. "We’re busy." Volunteers can sign up at the Habitat Web site or by calling the organization’s volunteer coordinator.