Homeowners, the next time you want to start your home renovation with a sledgehammer party, think again. Contractors, interior designers and homeowners alike are all finding that deconstruction -- the careful removal of building materials to reuse them elsewhere -- trumps demolition from a financial, environmental and even an aesthetic perspective.
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"In the late '90s, if you Googled the word 'deconstruction' you'd find pages about philosophy," says Jesse White, owner of Sarasota Architectural Salvage in Sarasota, Fla. "But now it's becoming more mainstream." Read:Celebrate Earth Day by monitoring your home's energy use The intention of deconstruction, as opposed to demolition, is to salvage as much building materials as possible for resale. There's a huge opportunity, especially in the north and Northeast where, says White, "urban forests are waiting to be harvested." Sadly, America is a throw-out society where seemingly everything gets tossed in the trash. According to Census Bureau data, "approximately 245,000 dwelling units and 45,000 non-residential units are demolished every year, creating approximately 74 million tons of debris." Furthermore, according to the Construction Materials Recycling Association, at least 325 million tons of recoverable construction materials are generated in the U.S. annually, including aggregates such as concrete, asphalt, asphalt shingles, gypsum wallboard, wood and metals.
Deconstruction lets landfills last longer
"The most interesting thing I think we're doing is choosing to use deconstruction as an alternative as the landfills are filling up," says Cynthia Main, director of education and special projects at the Rebuilding Exchange in Chicago, a nonprofit organization that strives to divert building-material waste from landfills. "Here in Chicago, we have just one landfill in the county. Basically at some point things have to be shipped further and further away. People are considering this a more serious problem. It comes down to where are we going to put this stuff?"