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4 Top Tips for Going Green

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So, you want to recover usable items from a job and turn them into a new revenue stream. How do you do that effectively, and who do you involve to get the items and materials to a new market?

Here are some strategies to consider.

The best time to look for reuse and repurpose opportunities is when you’re considering whether to pursue a project. That’s why it makes good sense to add reusing and repurposing to the checklist you use for rating projects.

1. Matching Items to Need

If the project is new construction with no demolition or removals, your options will be limited to mostly plant materials, rock, and soil. For instance, you could use large stones and boulders as landscape accents or build them into retaining walls. You could remove and reposition plants, or even pot them and use them on other projects. When you have excess soil, it can be used as fill or—if it’s good top soil—as a planting medium.

The key here is to work a deal with the owner. You need to be transparent about what’s happening with the materials they own. You might also consider including a section in your bid that outlines your plans for reusing and repurposing. For some owners, this becomes a positive spin that differentiates your bid from all the others.

When the project includes demolition and removals, you have more options for reuse and repurposing. The types of items include:

— Masonry components like brick, stone, asphalt, and concrete

— Lumber like studs, headers, laminated beams and fencing

— Metals including pipe, door frames, and window frames

— Roofing materials like asphalt shingles, slate, metal, and tiles

— Architectural items like fixtures, moulding, cabinets, countertops, appliances, carpeting, flooring and mantelpieces

2. Dealing With the Money

The biggest problem is that renovations and remodels seldom include budget money for dealing with salvaging and getting the items and materials sold or repurposed. However, if you can show reusing and repurposing will reduce the costs of disposal, it’s like finding money while adding sustainable aspects to the project. Reusing and repurposing can also help projects seeking green certifications.

You have two challenges when deciding if you will reuse or repurpose:

1. Matching a market to each material.

2. Overcoming the costs of salvaging.

Finding markets requires using some imagination. When you’ve allotted the time for it, the process won’t become just something else to do—instead it’ll be a part of the project. So, for every material or item, think about who could use them and where you could place them so people would know about them. If you have storage space, you might dedicate a section of your website to available salvage. Alternatively, you might place items with a local reseller.

3. Plan to Remove It

It’s always easier and more efficient to find new homes for salvageable items long before you start demo. Sometimes, when you can work around the liability aspect, you might even allow the people who are getting the items to do their own removals. When you can’t get around it, then at least structure your demo to make removals quicker and cleaner.

For items you can’t immediately match to a buyer, you’ll have to control your salvaging costs. The easiest way is by being very selective about what you decide to salvage. You should also train the people who do the removals so they preserve as much as possible, while working efficiently.

In some cases, your state or local municipality might actually provide incentives and impose conditions. Some communities have a waiting period from the time they issue the demolition permit until demolition can begin. One case is Menlo Park, California that has a seven-day waiting period which “is to encourage property owners and contractors to salvage materials from the job site.”

Some states are even more aggressive about encouraging recovery and reuse. Oregon’s House Bill 3456 offers a six percent reduction in waste generation fees to entities that follow the three programs outlined in the bill. One of them is for construction and demolition debris. It channels the items into any of over 100 demolition salvage depots. The public can purchase from these depots. So, check on what help or incentives are available in your state and community.

4. New Opportunities

Approach architects and contractors when you know you’ll have specific items for sale, with an eye toward selling them directly as they’re being removed from the site. This will save transporting and storing them.

You might not find new uses for everything, but if you have the space to store it and a way to let people know it’s available, it’s quite likely most will sell. On the other hand, you can gain some community and street credits by donating usable items to places like a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. And, many communities choose construction materials resellers that accept donations, such as the Home ReSource store in Missoula, Montana. These stores will give you a receipt listing the items and values which can be used to get a federal tax deduction. Some of these stores will also provide a store credit which allows you to purchase salvaged materials and fixtures.

Starting early and having a plan is essential if you want to be successful at repurposing and reusing. Beyond the reward of some extra cash though, reusing and repurposing reduces tipping costs and helps with green building certifications.

If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks and webinars you may enjoy:

The Future of Green Building

Is Green Building Worth It?

Go Lean, Get Green – Planning for More Profit with Lean Construction


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