Category Archives: Deconstruction

Deconstruction Part 3: Recycling the Used Building Materials

Our goal for the deconstruction of the building envelope is to transfer the least amount of building by-products to the landfill as possible. This goal informs the way we organize the on-site sorting of materials.

Metal ductwork, satellite dish, metal windows, gutters – anything metal from the site is collected here.

Wood not sold at the salvage sale is put into a pile for recycling.

Someone buys the hardwood floors.

The old roofing materials will be taken to a biomass energy facility.

There’s a designated dumpster for clean roofing lumber and another for sheetrock.

Used 2×4’s will be de-nailed and used in another building project.

The 4×6 floor beams from the old house will be de-nailed and become the corner posts for the new house.

Pablo de-nails lumber for use on-site.

The old furnace was sold for $100. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

The pavers from the walkways…

…and the bricks from the facade can be used again.

All of the hazardous material was collected on-site and delivered to the hazardous waste disposal site closest to us. We appreicate these guys.

Someday this wood debris will break down into rich soil again.

Besides the wood, metal and glass from the old house, the foundation was broken up and the clean concrete will be crushed and reused as gravel in new concrete mix or used as base rock for new highway construction.

Sorting and thereby recycling and reusing has a significant impact in the fight against global-warming and has the added benefit of creating jobs.

Deconstruction Part 2: ‘Unbuilding’ the House One Layer at a Time.


The traditional way to demolish a building is to bring in the ‘Cat’ to smash and crash its way through the structure ending up with a huge mixed debris pile that is transferred to dumpsters and trucked to the landfill.

Many times hazardous waste gets thrown into the mix and there is a real danger of ground and water contamination at the landfill.

The ‘best practices’ and sustainable alternative to demolition is “Deconstruction”. The goal of deconstruction is to take apart the structure in such a way that most of the original building materials can be reused or recycled in some way. The landfill is the last resort and is only used for a very small percentage of building materials which could not be reused or recycled. In the first stage of the deconstruction, reusable and recyclable materials are stripped from the building and sold, donated, reused or reintegrated into the project. In the second stage the envelope is is deconstructed and sorted into piles (i.e. concrete, wood, metal and glass).

Deconstruction Part 1: The Green Salvage Sale

At the absolute core of sustainability is the reuse of materials whenever possible. The first stage of green site deconstruction is to strip the existing stucture of any reuasable and recyclable materials.

We had a house-full of building materials that could be reused in other people’s projects so we contracted with Whole House Building Supply out of Palo Alto to conduct a Pre-Deconstruction Salvage Sale. A few days before the sale the organizers came to our project, tagged all the saleable items, took photographs and sent information about the sale to their 8,000 plus email contacts.

Whole House Builder’s Supply provided the signs, cashier and the re-movers. They provide proof of workman’s comp and liability for anyone working at the property. The proceeds from the sale are retained to cover thier costs and they haul away anything that isn’t sold after the weekend sale. We got an itemized list of what was salvaged and we can take a tax deduction that is equivalent to how much was sold and removed from the site.

Buyers signed a release from liability at the entrance.

Crew members help buyers load their purchases.

Sale crew taking unsold materials to the warehouse to sell off-site.

The deconstruction crew from Whole House Building Supply and Salvage were awesome.

We sold the playhouse on Craigslist ourselves and the buyer removed it with a small crane.

The garage door and opener were sold.

…and the old furnace for $100.

Once the sale was finished and the remainder of the building contents hauled away, we are ready to begin Deconstruction of the existing structure.