Deconstruction reuses what would be demolished
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- A dilapidated house in Hurricane is being taken down, but not by a bulldozer. Instead, it's being deconstructed piece by piece as part of Sarah Halstead's effort to make her home state more environmentally friendly.
"It's a hip concept," said Halstead, the executive director of WVGreenWorks. "It's all about reclaiming and reusing as much as possible and diverting as much as possible from the landfill."
WVGreenWorks, which is dedicated to, among other things, creating sustainable, green jobs in local communities, is partnering with The ReUse People of America, based in Oakland, Calif., in a business venture, which will deconstruct buildings in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and parts of Pennsylvania, rather than simply demolish them.
The first regional deconstruction process of the joint effort began Tuesday at a house on Victorian Place in Hurricane.
"We're hoping this professional approach to deconstruction will give municipalities and homeowners doing remodels more choices and more options on how to deal with construction and demolition debris," she said. "Really, it presents a whole new chance to shift your mindset. Most people will just 'doze a building, but when you take a look at the materials involved, some of that lumber you'll never find again."
Halstead said the idea is innovative around the area. She said she corresponded with Ben Newhouse, the Hurricane city manager, before the city recently installed solar panels at the wastewater treatment facility.
"It's a new concept for the folks I'm working with in Hurricane," she said. "I've worked with Ben Newhouse in the past, and he's a forward thinker."
Halstead said she talked with Newhouse about the deconstruction business.
"I called Ben and he said, 'Oh what a shame, we just demolished a house and we're about to bulldoze another,'" she said. "I said, "Please don't do it.' He said the house was really old, with a tile roof and hardwood floors."
The man who owns the house told Halstead he wanted the house demolished, and she said he didn't recognize that the materials could be reused.
"I told him, 'You've got a tile roof worth thousands of dollars,'" she said. "Why throw away perfectly good materials other people can use?"
Newhouse is excited about the possibility of recycling materials that otherwise would be thrown out, he said.
"If there's an opportunity to save the stuff that's in this house, which has a ton of oak and cherry woods in it, I said, 'Let's do it,'" he said. "That stuff is expensive, and there's no reason to send it all to the landfill."
Halstead said some people who qualify based on their income can receive a tax-deductible donation for reusing the materials. She said the donation deduction oftentimes will offset the labor costs, which are usually about 5 percent more than what it costs to demolish a building.
"Before we do any kind of deconstruction work, even if it's a kitchen remodel, we come and completely inventory everything," she said. "We then send pictures and descriptions off to a certified IRS building-material appraiser, and they write back and give us a range of value."
Materials taken from the three-story brick house in Hurricane will be donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Charleston.
"Whatever comes back to the store is available for sale," said Terry St. Germain, Habitat's donation coordinator. "The proceeds from what is sold there go toward building new homes."
People will be amazed at the valuable materials they can find in houses and other buildings, said Ted Reiff, president of The ReUse People of America.
"What it costs to build that mantle today none of us can afford," Reiff said about the house the company currently is deconstructing.
Halstead said her company is using the house in Hurricane as a training project, because its owner wasn't interested in applying for tax donations. Therefore, they have no budget and only had four days to take what they could. Normally, to get everything reusable from a house the same size, she said, it would take about four weeks.
The company's next projects in the area will be in Kanawha City and Ansted, she said.
Besides the benefits deconstruction has on the environment, she said, people would enjoy the sentimental and historical value of the antique parts.
"We want to show how beautiful reclaimed materials can be in new homes," she said. "We have a hope that more homes in West Virginia will start using reclaimed materials."
Dale Oxley, owner of Modern Home Concepts in Hurricane, is the contractor helping perform the deconstruction. He will be this region's first certified deconstruction contractor.
"I grew up in this area, and this is all about doing the right thing," Oxley said. "When I was young, the Sycamore landfill was just opening but, in a few years, it will be the highest vantage point in Putnam County."
Oxley said he's adjusting to the process of taking things apart rather than putting them together as a contractor.
"I put things together all the time," he said, "but this is basically running the tape backwards."
Some of WVGreenWorks' goals are to educate the public -- and state legislators -- on what environmentally friendly options are available, Halstead said.
"The idea is to train as many people as possible from around the state so we can get the work done, and divert materials from landfills," she said.
Halstead said the country's landfills are bursting at the seams.
"We have overburdened landfills, and construction debris accounts for a huge amount of stuff. Unless you're living around a landfill, you probably don't really know how bad it is," she said. "We're a throw-away society -- we throw everything away. The business of deconstruction, to me, offers a solution for that."
Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.