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Why the Greenies Shouldn't Try to Salvage from Demo Jobs

Discussion in 'Demolition' started by Wolf, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. Wolf

    Wolf Senior Member

    Apr 5, 2006
    The stuff is all out of code. Why bother, it's so much more trouble than it's worth.

    "Green buildings use durable materials that are salvaged, have recycled content or came from rapidly renewable resources. These materials significantly reduce the environmental destruction associated with the extraction, processing and transportation of virgin materials."

    So reads a prominent display in the building department of one of America's most environmentally progressive cities. It's meant to exhort architects, builders and homeowners to reuse building materials that already exist - an extremely worthy goal, to be sure.

    The trouble is that the building codes enforced by this very same department often make it difficult or impossible to follow the advice. It is not just one city's problem. Current building codes simply aren't formulated to accommodate the reuse of salvaged materials, leaving well-intentioned green builders caught in a classic Catch-22: As a matter of public policy, many progressive cities encourage the recycling of building materials, yet as a matter of administrative practice they make their use either economically impractical or else outright illegal.

    A common example: Modern codes require safety glazing in all glass doors and in many windows. Yet the overwhelming majority of glass doors gleaned from architectural salvage, along with most of the windows, have plain glass, which cannot comply with these requirements.

    What's more, the cost of re-glazing, say, a pair of old French doors with code-compliant glass would typically far outstrip their value. Faced with this reality, most homeowners will either install such noncompliant doors on the sly or else abandon the whole idea of using recycled materials and buy new doors instead.

    As you might guess, the legal reuse of salvaged electrical items is equally problematic. Many local jurisdictions, for instance, require all newly installed lighting fixtures to carry an Underwriters Laboratories label - a standard that many old fixtures, even those rewired with modern components for safety, cannot meet.

    What's more, many state energy conservation codes no longer permit fixtures that use traditional incandescent bulbs (which constitute the vast majority of the salvage stock) in rooms such as kitchens, baths, laundries and garages, making it even more difficult to recycle such items.

    On top of everything else, local restrictions dealing with lead paint and asbestos (the sale of both was outlawed only in 1978) may further dissuade those wishing to use salvaged materials.

    Lead paint is practically a given on older items such as doors, windows or cabinets. Asbestos can show up in vintage ironing board cabinets, clinging to the backs of old heating registers, and in older appliances such as toasters and heaters. The presence of these materials can hardly be considered a dire threat inasmuch as they're also found in millions of existing homes, and in general, building officials tolerate them in existing work.

    Still, as regulations dealing with lead and asbestos inevitably become more restrictive, they, too, will become barriers to widespread recycling.

    As if these troubles weren't enough to discourage would-be green builders from recycling old materials (many of which are far superior to new ones), there are other hurdles to negotiate.
  2. surfer-joe

    surfer-joe Senior Member

    Mar 25, 2007
    Other than metals and items that can be used for aggregates, one doesn't see much salvage of building materials. I have seen some older buildings taken for some of the better wood they contain, but the rest is usually bound for a land fill. Recent demo of a Basha's grocery store here is a good example, contractor has a portable crusher set up in parking lot for aggregates, separate piles for copper piping, wiring, steel, and what looks like roofing material. The rest was hauled off in demo trailers. I would agree that much other stuff, unless it has unique or antique value, is just so much scrap to be discarded or burned. Remember the world trade center buildings, most of that went to landfill, but just about all the metal was salvaged. Authorities still claim not to know what sickened so many people in the aftermath……..
  3. CM1995

    CM1995 Super Moderator

    Jan 21, 2007
    Running what I brung and taking what I win

    I understand the conundrum you are explaining. Municipalities promote green building and the re-use, reduce and recycle mantra. On the other hand the building codes require UL certifications, etc, etc. Kinda makes it hard when one hand of the local governement doesn't know what the other hand is doing - and both are in charge!:Banghead

    Another example here locally is this - The City of Birmingham has a problem with vacant houses located all over the city limits. Now Birmingham is the core downtown area with mutliple other suburb cities. The Mayor of B'ham comes on the TV saying they have a "new initiative" to demo the eye sores and revitalize neighborhoods, with the usual pomp and circumstance that politicians love. Sounds like a good thing right?

    Now enter the homeowner that their house caught on fire and they are ready to rebuild. (See thread https://www.heavyequipmentforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=6922) There was so much red tape, paper work, bonding and inspections to demo this house so the builder could get started re-building this families home, it was ridiculous. It took 2 weeks to get a demo permit for a job that took 2 days to complete.

    The "green" part of my story is the new house will be built more energy efficient, better insulation and the like, however everything did go the landfill except for the concrete that we used as fill in another location.
  4. td14steve

    td14steve Well-Known Member

    Mar 2, 2008
    east chatham,ny
    Well i've been in the construction trades for 30 years or so as an operator and currently as my own building,carpentry, what have you business and I think another factor against reusing salvage is the labor cost to get the particular item ready to be reused. Usually 3 to 4 times the cost of installing something new, Windows doors mill work etc. But if people want to spend their money that way its fine with me. The new catch phrase in everything is green these days it doesn't matter if its the same way its been done forever it is now green. Oh well enough from me. Steve
  5. digger242j

    digger242j Administrator

    Oct 31, 2003
    Self employed excavator
    Southwestern PA
    The thread title is off base.

    It's not a question of whether someone should or should not try to use salvage materials; it's a question of why one segment would encourage their re-use, while another legislates against any possibility of it.

    The "greenies" need to get together with the people that write the building codes and decide who's right...
  6. Ray Welsh

    Ray Welsh Banned

    Dec 6, 2007
    Queensland Australia
    I agree with the above statements

    "Recycling" does not necessarily mean re-using the materials in their original form. It's cheaper to crush an old car, steel beam or glass window, then melt it down and create something new to meet todays standards, rather than dig ores from the ground.

    Of course new mines will still operate to keep pace as we continue to overpopulate this fragile planet. I would be interested to hear comments from landfill operators on how much room is remaining for disposal. Dumping in the oceans in not an option.......C ya.....Ray
  7. Dualie

    Dualie Senior Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    Nor Cal
    I have always been in the F-it category. who wants that old junk when you can get the latest and the greatest. If I can get some $$$ in my pocket for say scrap metals than so be it. everything else gets shoved in the demo dump.

    I personally DO NOT like florescent lights I hate the light they put out. so I have been stock piling incandescent.

    I will say today's lumber is XXXX, and the old growth tight grain lumber within reason can be reused. everything else is just in my way.

    im all for building green when it makes economic sense but to just do it for the sake of being a green builder doesn't make sense to me.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2008
  8. Turbo21835

    Turbo21835 Senior Member

    Oct 20, 2007
    Road Dog
    I have to agree with you on wood Dualie. Unless its a beam that is worth the time to resaw, its in my way. Now heres the what gets me. I can cut a tree down, chip it up, and ship it out as compost able material. Yet i can do that with a damn 2x4, that was cut out of, you guessed it, a tree.

    Metals, of course we send all of those to the scrap yard. Sending it to the landfill costs money, vs us getting paid for it. Its worth the extra time to sort and clean all the metal we come across.

    When it comes to concrete. The job im wrecking right now, all my concrete and block is going to the landfill. They are going to use it to build roads on their property. Nobody around here really likes brick or block to crush. It usually is too dirty. Reason the concrete slab is going too. It was poured over styrofoam insulation. None of the crushing companies will take it. My last job, all big concrete footings, went to a crusher. Where it was crushed into road stone. In my opinion, the perfect application for this material. 1 Around here if you find a stone bigger than a quarter inch it came from at least 50 miles away. 2 A ton of crushed concrete covers more sq footage than a ton of crushed stone. 3 It contains portland cement, which seems to help hold things together nicely.

    Asphalt is the one that is odd. Years ago you could get a load of millings for free. You usually could get rid of broken up asphalt cheaply or even find someone to take it for free. Now the paving companies arent giving away any millings. They are crushing it, and mixing it into new hotmix. Great idea, they are saving on AC. So you would think they would want to take in all this material they could get their hands on. Not the case. In fact most places charge $10 an axle for broken up asphalt. Fine and dandy, except if you have ever seen the trucks we use around here. Most of the time the trucks we use have a steer, and tandem axles on the tractor, 3 axles on the lead dump, and 5 axles on the pup. Thats 11 axles, or $110 for each truck. Add the charges for your trucking, this gets expensive real quick.