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Re-using construction materials

New Home ReSource center protects landfill by deconstructing, recycling buildings

Jennie Lay

Brett KenCairn and David Epstein have visions of biodiesel filling stations, green construction and alternative energy options for the Yampa Valley dancing in their heads. They envision community-based solutions for globally sustainable living under the umbrella of their latest brainchild, the Yampa Institute for Land and Community.

“When people live out their passions and visions, it inspires others to do the same,” KenCairn said. “We will see things happen that are totally unimaginable and delightful.”

Their dream took seed as a reality last week with the opening of a pilot project called Home ReSource, a nonprofit retail outlet based in Oak Creek that will accept and resell reusable construction materials in an attempt to keep them out of the landfill. The mission behind Home ReSource is to promote deconstruction instead of demolition, a formula that has been wildly popular for ReSource2000, a similar retail center in Boulder that has been mentoring KenCairn and Epstein in getting the Oak Creek outlet off the ground.

“What we think first is landfill diversion,” ReSource2000 yard manager Mark Bowen said from Boulder. He said his yard has gotten increasingly more popular since its inception on Earth Day eight years ago, with more than 9,000 customers having bought recycled building materials there in 2003. “It’s most people’s favorite place to shop. It’s Home Depot in the raw.”

Home ReSource started accepting used building materials last week at its Oak Creek store in an old log house along Colorado Highway 131. Construction materials will be re-sold at rates that are more than 50 percent cheaper than retail prices.

Home ReSource has also completed its first deconstruction project, a coal-dust-laden, 1,000-square-foot miner’s cabin at the corner of Bell Avenue and Williams Street in Oak Creek that was built in the 1920s. KenCairn said the deconstruction project took two weeks to complete and many of the materials are already being reused in a new construction project.

Two weeks is not unusual for deconstruction projects, which generally take between two and four weeks to complete, said Bowen. In the end he estimated that 80 to 90 percent of a house is reusable. By contrast, a typical home demolition project takes only two or three days to complete with everything going to a landfill, he said.

Deconstruction has considerable labor costs for a contractor who is trying to keep within a construction budget, but with programs like Home ReSource there is an opportunity to take advantage of tax deductions for the donation of building materials that can help defray added costs of deconstruction.

“This is a market based incentive to keep things out of the landfill,” KenCairn said.

At Boulder’s ReSource2000, the outlet KenCairn and Epstein intend to emulate, the staff makes a detailed inventory of each donation, has it appraised by an independent appraiser and fills out the tax forms for the contributor. In the past seven years since Bowen has worked at ReSource2000, the biggest credit he’s seen was $60,000 for materials from deconstruction of a 4,000-square-foot home, he said.

“Deconstruction might be more expensive than demolition, but the tax benefits, the positive environmental impact and reduced costs of going to the landfill outweigh the costs,” Epstein said.

When reusable items go up for sale, nothing costs more than 50 percent of retail, with windows and doors being about one-quarter to one-third the price of retail, Bowen said.

This is a good construction material option for people who don’t have large budgets, Routt County contractor Jack White said. He said he welcomes the new resting place for all the stuff that comes off his construction sites with no place to go but the landfill.

“I’m pretty optimistic about this. I think this will be well received by the construction community,” White said.

ReSource2000 received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help replicate the existing program at Home ReSource. In addition, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley has adopted fiscal sponsorship of the Yampa Institute for Land and Community so the new organization can get projects like Home ReSource up and running while they wait for their own 501(c)3 status to be approved.

“It’s obviously something that has been needed in the community for a long time. It’s filling a niche that needs to happen,” Community Alliance organizer Christi Ruppe said.

Home ReSource hopes to build its inventory during the busy construction season this summer. The company already has purchased a denailer to make lumber reusable and have two deconstruction projects waiting in the wings. With a truck, trailers, land and a storefront in place, Home ReSource next hopes to secure a staging area to organize incoming materials and a satellite space in Steamboat Springs, Epstein said.

Anyone who wants to contribute reusable building materials to Home ReSource should call Epstein at 736-1144.


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