Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Remodeling?

Reduce, reuse, recycle has long been the calling card of the Green movement. We are seeing it at home where many of us separate our trash into bins of paper, plastic and metal. We see it in action when garage sales spring up as soon as the weather will let them. Reduce has been a challenge, but those that hear the call are using the computer, cell phone, or iPods in place of the newspaper to stay current on world events. The question is, how can the remodeling industry be called into action to employ these three words: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

New home building generates between 3 and 5 lbs. of construction waste per square foot of home. By contrast a remodeling project can generate between 70 and 115 lbs. of waste per square foot. With between 85 and 90 percent of construction waste being recyclable, you can see that the opportunity for reuse and recycling of waste from a remodeling project can be quite high. But what are the benefits of practicing this process?

First you may be able to develop an income stream from the waste. Many materials that are removed during renovations have significant value to recyclers, collectors and artisans. Recycling or reusing materials removed from renovation projects help the environment by reducing the size of the waste stream to the landfill and reliance on raw materials. By reducing the amount of material you take to the dump, you will cut your disposals costs. The process involved with recycling and reusing construction waste may also provide jobs in your community.

Deconstruction enables you to extract materials so they may be reused or they are easily recycled. One example of deconstruction is removing kitchen cabinets as individual units instead of breaking them up for removal. Another is removing a wall section as a unit so the lumber can be extracted and reused. The list of possibilities is extensive and depends on the type of project you conduct and the condition of the house.

The key to implementing reduce, reuse, recycle on remodeling projects is planning. Planning of the materials that will be used. Planning the deconstruction of the site. Planning the disposition or the on-site use of the materials removed during deconstruction.

When planning the project, think in terms of building incremental dimensions if using Advanced Framing Techniques. Using a 2-ft. increment will reduce waste of drywall and sheathing. Selecting window and door placement to reduce cripples can also reduce waste.

Consider using modular or preconstructed materials for your projects. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) is one example of a product that can not only reduce waste but also may reduce the energy footprint of the home. These panels can be used for walls and roof systems and because they are prebuilt, they will speed up on-site construction time.

Planning the deconstruction should start at the beginning. While you are designing the project, reflect on what is in the house that you may be able to reuse on-site. Next consider the materials that will need to be removed in order for your project to start. Catalog them into reuse, recycle and waste.

Plan material removal by developing a site plan to remove and segregate the various materials. Develop a call list so as materials are ready for removal from the site, the appropriate people are called to effect removal.

In many communities you may find companies that will subcontract with you to conduct the deconstruction work at a reasonable rate. Typically they will deconstruct to the level you require and haul all waste and materials away.

Reduction of resources tends to be a challenge when planning and conducting remodeling projects. Building overly large additions or kitchens will require an excess of materials to construct and extra energy to heat or cool.

Is there anything that cannot be recycled or reused? Yes, anything that may cause a health hazard: lead, asbestos, mercury, PCB, or arsenic. Materials containing these products must be disposed of as required by current laws, regulations and codes. In addition old toilets should not be sold for reuse. They are best ground and combined with recycled concrete for back full.

Using these processes may require a little time and creativity, but in the end it will pay off aesthetically, economically and ecologically. Go Green.

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