Renovating? You could just rip up the old room and sweep everything into the trash bin. But a growing number of homeowners, architects and builders are trying to reuse or recycle construction materials whenever possible - for reasons both environmental and aesthetic.
Architect Anthony Garrett went this route with the gut renovation. The building's wooden floor joists, more than a century old, were reclaimed to be reused as flooring and exposed beams in a planned mixed-use development.
"It's dismantling, as opposed to demolition," Garrett said. "There's an embedded energy in that material that we salvage, and we don't have to cut any more trees down."
With construction waste making up as much as 25 to 50 percent of the junk in landfills, the push to salvage building materials is "gaining a huge amount of momentum," said Anne Nicklin, executive director of the Building Materials Reuse Association.
Reused materials are not just better for the environment; they also can be higher quality. "You can't buy old- growth timber at Home Depot, but you can find it in a building that's coming down," she said.
Nicklin estimates that 75 percent or more of most buildings can be reused or recycled.
Some nonprofit retail outlets - such as Humanity's ReStore and Green Demolitions - offer a marketplace for old building materials. Green Demolitions targets affluent homeowners who decide that their kitchens aren't quite right, but who feel guilty about dumping cabinets and appliances that are sometimes only a few years old.
It might be hard to believe that homeowners would replace kitchens that are in good shape, but "they want the kitchen they want," said Green Demolitions founder Steve Feldman.
His pitch: by donating the old kitchen to his company, homeowners can save the disposal costs, plus get a tax deduction because Green Demolitions' profits go to support addiction treatment programs.
"Why throw out something that's perfectly good and totally usable?" said Alan Asarnow, sales manager at Ulrich, a home renovation company that encourages clients to recycle their old kitchens. Many of the donated kitchens are only about 10 years old.
Green Demolitions sold 600 kitchens last year in its three stores; most were donated by homeowners, but about 100 were store displays donated by kitchen remodeling contractors.
"When you think about something being thrown out, sometimes that's where the opportunity is," Feldman said. He estimates his company keeps 900 tonnes of debris out of landfills each year.
Those who buy the old kitchens and other materials at Green Demolitions or the ReStores find discounts of 50 to 80 percent.
Stephanie and Vincent Gurnari visited a Green Demolitions store recently, looking to add a few cabinets to their existing kitchen, but spotted a full kitchen - including appliances - for just under US$6,000 (HK$46,800).
"We just kind of jumped on the opportunity," Stephanie Gurnari said. "It was too good of a deal to pass up. We've got champagne tastes, and we wouldn't have been able to get some of the features we got with the budget we had."
Of course, this kitchen was built for someone else's home, so the Gurnaris are going to have to be a bit creative about fitting it into their space.
But Vincent Gurnari, a teacher, used to work in a cabinet shop, and they have some handy relatives, so they are pretty confident about making it work.
"Kitchens are modular. They're boxes," Feldman said. Green Demolitions usually recommends buying a kitchen that's a little bigger than your space to provide flexibility.
A decade ago, "the marketplace was unsophisticated in its ability to effectively divert a large amount of materials from the landfill," said architect Daniel Topping. But it's a lot easier these days to find a new home for old materials.
"It's just a little more legwork," he said.
THE HACKENSACK RECORD (MCT)