by Eileen Weber
That’s where folks like Joe DeRisi, founder of Urbanminers in Hamden, come in. With an educational background in resource management and environmental studies, he’s committed to being green—particularly when it comes to construction.
He calls what he does “deconstruction”. He will take out your old cabinets and reuse them for another construction project. Or, if he can’t use them on another project, he can sell them out of his storefront.
“We need to save it. It’s all usable,” said DeRisi of his deconstruction projects. “My goal is to turn over stuff as quickly as possible. There’s way more stuff out there.”
“We’re a wasteful society, throwing out perfectly good things,” said Debra Lombard, the Expeditor and Sustainability Coordinator for Common Visions also in Hamden. Lombard, who often works with DeRisi on her projects, said while she’s in favor of the recycling aspect of deconstruction sometimes there’s a limitation to it.
If you need 22 linear feet of cabinets but DeRisi only has 17 linear feet, that’s not going to fit your project. It can be a little hit-or-miss. And, unlike a Lexus, many consumers don’t like the idea of having a “certified, pre-owned” avocado green toilet. “There’s still this stigma that it’s got to be new,” said Lombard.
Rick Roberts, a project manager for Eco One Solutions, a subsidiary of Integrated Green, Inc., has worked with DeRisi, too. His job entails proper waste management of construction debris. His company lends on-the-ground expertise to audit haulers and recycling centers. While the industry standard is a 75% recycling rate, most of Roberts’ projects have achieved a recycling rate of 95%.
“Reuse is the best way to recycle,” said Roberts. “You’re just paying for transport and nothing is going into a landfill.”
Unfortunately, that’s where excess construction debris usually ends up. The landfill capacity in New England is a little scary. While the national average for landfill capacity has a 20-year cap, there is only a 5-year capacity for many of the New England states, including Connecticut.
DeRisi also said another benefit to recycling construction materials is that homeowners can pick up some vintage items from a deconstruction project for a much better price than if they purchased it elsewhere.
Steve Feldman, founder of Green Demolitions in Norwalk, feels the same. According to a MediaPlanet insert in The Boston Globe last month, one builder recently came to him with a budget of $27,000 to pay for kitchen cabinets. He walked away with a beautiful set for $7,000. Doing a little simple math, that’s a sweet $20,000 savings.
“We find that people have a budget when they’re planning a project,” Feldman was quoted as saying, “and they’re surprised at how much they can actually save by buying a recycled kitchen or bathroom.”
Increasingly, homeowners, organizations, and major corporations alike are looking to build green and for good reason. “Green projects are turning up everywhere,” said Michael Schrier, an architect and project manager with Yale University’s School of Medicine, in a recent e-mail. “It is the future that is here now.”
Schrier has worked on a number of projects at Yale, a school renowned for its focus on the environment with its own sustainability mission.
“[Green projects] are affiliated with a scoring system developed by the United States Green Building Council,” said Schrier. “The scoring system is based on various design criteria that must meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points.”
LEED-certified buildings accomplish a number of things. They lower operating costs and increase asset value. They reduce waste sent to landfills and conserve energy and water. These buildings are healthier and safer for their occupants and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Both commercial and residential construction projects can be LEED certified if they meet those criteria. Recycling old materials can get you extra credit points toward that LEED certification.
“A LEED certification provides verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures,” said Schrier, “demonstrating that a building is environmentally responsible and friendly.”
Whether you plan on recycling your excess materials or you just want a more environmentally-friendly space, there are pay-offs to going green—literally. According to a January 14th press release from the U.S. Green Building Council, businesses may have been hit pretty hard by the stumbling economy, but it wasn’t reflected in green building.
“Green developers reported significant marketing benefits and major savings in approvals and compliance costs,” it was stated in the release. “The savings on development time and the avoidance of community protest and litigation delivered very real financial benefits.” The council attributed this to a more welcoming attitude for green development from local communities and planning authorities.
“The built environment—directly or indirectly—accounts for up to 40% of greenhouse emissions. But huge reductions are available in this sector, which pay for themselves rapidly in energy savings and productivity gains.”
There are obvious benefits to green building and recycling used materials. But for many consumers, it’s not a matter of wanting to be green. It’s not knowing who to work in order to reach that goal.
“The more we can promote this, the better,” said Lombard. “There’s room for improvement in the marketing of this stuff.”