“Deconstruction”: the word itself succinctly distinguishes the process from “demolition” by containing the word “construction.” With demolition, unwanted, hazardous materials are removed, the building is knocked down, and subsequently, crunched into useless landfill.
Deconstruction, by contrast, is “unbuilding”: a building is taken apart, often in reverse order of its construction, to preserve the greatest amount of materials for re-purposing. Less energy is used, creating less pollution and engendering greater recycling potential at each step.
Another building is sure to take shape—meaning future construction, recovery and rebirth, as much as green disassembly. Through deconstruction, Viridian Future will engage in this recovery, diverting at least 90 percent of our construction unbuild away from the landfill.
Whole-house deconstruction, business-wise, also has huge economic benefits:
- Nonprofit involvement—As many deconstruction operations are run by not-for-profit groups, tax-deductions are available for the client, resulting in a great boon.
- An environmental/economic win-win—Deconstruction’s greater reuse and recycling mean cleaner, cleared lots, and less disposal stimulates the local economy, while extending the life of landfills, as the process requires more labor, meaning more jobs, and the availability of lower-cost building materials.
Deconstruction, however, is a process that requires several steps. These are observed in order to ensure safety and compliance—environmental, health and legal. They involve contracts and specifications, historic preservation, permits/utilities, engineering surveys, organizational and site/security plans, along with management and deconstruction process guides. Within each of these elements, the process must be pre-planned.
Safety requires competence, and knowledge of building construction and tools used during construction. Asbestos abatement is a crucial early step; as are knowledge of environmental working conditions—rain, heat, for example—and tools, supervision and training of all involved.
The site must be clean, which means clearing salvage and debris as work is done. Vertically, all the way from the weather down to the wearing of gloves and hard hats, the site’s requirements must be observed in order to ensure proper reclamation and recycling during the unbuild.
Some of the materials Viridian Future has recycled include: Metals, wood, bricks, stairs, windows and steel doors. Our salvage material is in the process of donation/selling—this includes old appliances, furniture, bathroom fixtures and architectural features to ReUse Network.
Crucially, our donation recipients span a wide field. They include the Freecycle Network, comprised of more than 5,000 groups, with some seven million members globally. Grassroots and entirely nonprofit, the movement gives (and gets) things for free in their towns, keeping good material out of landfills.
In addition, GreenStreet Inc. contributes to New York City’s Build It Green, the city’s only nonprofit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials. They accept everything from panel doors to high-end refrigerators, window shutters and reclaimed lumber, and kitchen cabinet sets and salvaged flooring. BIG!NYC seeks to keep these materials out of landfills, while offering deep discounts on resale. They, also, work toward reducing the amount of unnecessary clogging of our landfills, as these contribute to pollution, GHG emissions, climate change and global warming—another reason underlining why GreenStreet opts for deconstruction, not demolition, and donates to the group.
In Greenwich, CT, Green Demolitions—established in 2005—originally began as a luxury donation program, but became Renovation Angel, giving back to the charity of the donor’s choice on qualified kitchens. And Habitat for Humanity, whose houses offer simple, decent and affordable living to low-income families around the world, builds sustainable, energy-efficient and healthy housing.
With all of these benefits, the reasons behind deconstruction (instead of demolition) are clear. It isn’t, essentially, a choice: Deconstruction most efficiently, and responsibly, recovers the quality and quantity of reusable and recyclable materials. In turn, the materials are repurposed, keeping debris out of landfills and giving back to the local community, which is at the very core of GreenStreet’s mission to build green.
– Alessia Pilloni