Salvaged Materials Benefit Green Remodeling

Clean stacks of lumber, windows and doors, hardware and other architectural wares lay neatly arranged at Lovett Deconstruction's North Portland warehouse on Friday.

The space isn't usually so clean, said Preston Browning, who handles materials sales for Lovett Deconstruction. But Lovett, which specializes in tearing down buildings by hand, is now using the leftover materials to build a new business.

Lovett Deconstruction's warehouse is now open to the public, offering for sale the pieces it recovers from historic homes and small commercial buildings. The store, at 2030 N. Willis Blvd., will be open three days a week to builders and project owners alike.

"In the past, the stuff (Lovett) retains hasn't had a real market," Browning said. But now, he says, "especially in Portland, building green and recycling is very desirable."

As housing prices decline, more homeowners are choosing to stay put and invest in remodeling their current houses. Green building services have also grown with rising energy prices and the market for salvaged building materials is benefiting, with new stores and services opening throughout the Portland metro region.

Last spring, Metro regional government launched, a free Web service for buying and selling salvaged commercial building materials. And Habitat for Humanity opened a new ReStore in Vancouver, Wash., last fall that sells overstock and discontinued products from retail stores as well as salvage materials. Habitat plans to expand to three more metro-area locations this year.

Lovett hopes to corner a small segment of the salvage market by marketing itself as "the first phase in sustainable remodeling" and by specializing in vintage materials. With new remodeling and demolition projects starting about every two weeks, Lovett recovers truckloads of material that would otherwise head for a dump.

In the past, Lovett donated much of it to nonprofit retailers, such as North Portland's ReBuilding Center, and recycled materials that couldn't be restored. With the opening of its retail operation, Lovett will still donate much of the recovered material but will hold onto the period pieces for their store unless their clients specifically set them aside. The company will also continue to offer recycling management services to residential and commercial builders.Lovett is banking on the rising popularity of green building certifications such as the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which award points for material reuse and recycling in construction.

Right now the LEED program places an equal importance on the use of salvage materials and materials with recycled content. But the next version of the LEED program will place more emphasis on a full life-cycle analysis that will favor the use of salvage materials over recycled content, according to the Cascadia Region Green Building Council.

"Whether it's LEED or Earth Advantage, we can help contractors meet their recycling goals beyond just deconstruction," said Browning. "It's the best use of salvage materials."