Deconstruction in Action

Date: 19 Dec 2008 | posted in: waste - deconstruction, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The ReUse People

Oakland, California

The ReUse People are among the best and the brightest of the deconstruction movement in the US. Since beginning operations in 1993 as a non-profit organization in San Diego, serving both sides of the border with deconstruction services and resale operations. Starting out with a unique yard with stacks of shipping containers for specified products, the enterprise has expanded throughout California and much of the West.

The Reuse People have taken down hundreds of buildings in the San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Boulder areas through a network of certified, reliable deconstruction technicians. The ReUse People Network has expanded in an effort to standardize efficient practices and share markets. Most recently, The Reuse People have completed a detailed training manual available to their working partners. The Reuse People technicians also specialize in business planning and financing.

Stay in touch with these innovative deconstructionists through their email service or subscribe to their hard copy newsletter, the much heralded, Velvet Crowbar. The web page is another gem, including an annotated listing of 100 related local businesses and resources for deconstruction minded consumers in the San Francisco-Oakland region. The listing lays out virtually the entire deconstruction related industry in the area—a model for other deconstruction enterprises and networks.

Contact Information:


Reconnx, Inc. Serving the Reuse Industry

Boulder, Colorado

Reconnx is the premier company serving the equipment needs of the deconstruction industry. The company was started in 1996, by Jon Giltner, a registered structural engineer determined to do his part to reduce waste in the building construction sector. Even as a young engineer, he was frustrated by the site of perfectly good 2″ x 12’s” and other construction materials being crushed and dumped in a landfill. His career in reuse began.

Initially, Giltner focused on finger jointing for used wood and improved the product strength to 95% of the base wood. He adapted table saws and multi-phased drills to the task. His long time attentions to green building lead him to deconstruction as a niche market but a growing one.

The mainstay of Reconnx’s business is the denailing gun, or the ‘nail kicker’ which allows workers to use pneumatic energy to blow nails out of recovered wood quickly and without further damage to the material. Customers range from deconstruction companies, to pallet repair operations, to concrete forming companies that take nails out of 3/4″ plywood used as forms. The nail-kicker allows the company to efficiently recover $100 per piece sheets of plywood for reuse.

Reconnx is improving current models of the nail kicker that will allow the user to match the diameter of the nail with three adjustable drivers. The interchangeable drivers will allow for even more efficiency. Another tool in development will allow nails and screws to be removed by a drill attachment.

Reconnx prides itself on making reuse cost effective. “Some projects could not be done economically without this tool,” he explains. “One company needed to take down a large grain bin with thousands of feet of valued 2″ x 6″ and 2″ x 8″ boards. The nail kicker made it possible to recover and reuse the material.”

Giltner has a record of community service by helping found the Resource 2000, a construction materials reuse program of the Center for Resource Conservation, based in Boulder, CO. He was also a board member for the deconstruction industry trade association, Used Building Materials Association, the predecessor to the current Building Materials Reuse Association.


The Deconstruction Sector in Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware

In 2007, The Department of Planning, for the city hired Design Contracting, Inc. to deconstruct a formidable building that served as offices and laboratory for the city’s Water Department. The building was a unique art deco edifice with unique detailed features and building materials. The Department thought that deconstruction was the proper thing to do. It issued an rfp with clear instructions to earmark extraordinary features to be preserved delivered to non-profit entities in the city. The Wilmington College of Art and Design, housed in an art deco building itself, received the period pieces. Other materials such as doors, marble and tiles went to The Challenge Program. (See below). Design Contractors, Inc., based in Wilmington, won the bid to deconstruct and recycle materials that were not reused. Additional architectural salvage items were stored for the city to incorporate in future renovations. Deconstruction is not new to Andrew Diffley, principal of Design Contractors, Inc. “We’ve been doing it for 20 years. I just never knew it was called deconstruction.”

For details contact: Debra Martin, Preservation Planner, City of Wilmington, DE,; and Andrew Diffley, Design Contractors,

Deconstruction also figures prominently in the work of the Challenge Program, a non-profit youth training program based in Wilmington; and Forticon, Inc., a for profit wood furniture manufacturing company based in Newark, DE.

The Challenge Program engages 15 youth, 18-21, for 6 months of intensive construction training that includes deconstruction of buildings and on-site classes to help participants obtain their GED high school diplomas. Materials recovered from deconstruction projects are used to renovate two affordable houses per 6-month period. With support from industry and government workforce development grants, the Challenge Program focuses exclusively on at-risk youth. It has a 66% completion rate and an 80% placement rate for participants who complete the program. The Challenge Program provides workers and materials to local enterprises. It works closely with the Laborers and Carpenters Unions.


Although there is no formal deconstruction company operating in the state, The Challenge Program, Inc. and the Wilmington Planning Department are integrating deconstruction into the local economy.

Statewide two initiatives could boost deconstruction in the state:

A ban on Construction and Demolition debris from state owned and private landfills; and a building-recycling ordinance that requires minimum recovery targets. State and industry sponsored LEED workshops could complement the regulatory and policy initiatives by the state.


Bearded Brothers, Mike and Jake

Bearded Brothers Solutions

Deconstruction, Recycling, Salvage

Gainesville, Florida


Mike Myers and Jake Tramonte have been close friends and recycling partners for thirty years. Three years ago they formed Bearded Brothers deconstruction in Gainesville, Florida. They work closely with architects, developers, builders and homeowners helping to divert salvaged building materials from the landfill. In the last three years they have deconstructed 35 buildings in the Gainesville area, including commercial, residential, school and church buildings.

By carefully taking buildings apart, piece by piece, they are exploring other avenues to reuse the various materials which can be turned into pieces of value added art, and other environmentally sound practices.

Door Art at the United Church of Gainesville

When Bearded Brothers deconstructs a building the cost is comparable to demolition with the added bonus of supplying quality materials to Green and LEED build projects along with home owner renovations. Some of these materials, such as heart pine and tidewater cypress are not available to builders and crafts people except as deconstructed materials. Records are kept as to the origin of most of the materials that they reclaim.

Bearded Brothers offers job training to college students as well as local young people. They currently employ six to ten workers with a starting pay scale of $9 to $10 per hour which increases as workers gain more skills and experience.

Bearded Brothers Deconstruction is currently a for profit company from which a new non-profit deconstruction educational organization is being formed to positively influence public awareness about the benefits of deconstruction to governments, businesses and households. A primary mission of the non-profit is to provide leadership in organizing and making materials available to foster value added art projects throughout the Gainesville area communities.

The Bearded Brothers are at the forefront of local activity focused on the reduction of landfill use and fostering alternative uses for recovered building materials. They are working with the county government at the planning stage of an eco-industrial park that will accommodate large and small environmentally sound enterprises working with each other to reduce the area’s overall carbon footprint. By helping to develop a process to measure and track the carbon implication of the materials that they retrieve through deconstruction, Bearded Brothers is involved in establishing new measurement techniques for calculating carbon credits that will be useful to Green and LEED builders.

As long time believers in the value of recycling, Mike and Jake are moving forward to develop new methods to help solve the problems presented by growth and the need to build. They are supportive of local citizens and businesses in their efforts to recycle materials generated from home building projects thereby diverting these useable materials from the landfill.

Contact information:

Deconstruction Institute On-Line Resources

Sarasota, Florida

The Deconstruction Institute web site provides a wide range of articles, case studies, a business directory, and other materials to inspire and support deconstruction and materials reuse. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection provided funding for the creation of the website for Charlotte County, Florida as a training vehicle to anyone interested in learning how they can reduce the impact of building material solid waste in landfills. The Deconstruction Institute project partners are:

  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Charlotte County Environmental Services
  • Resource Management Group, Inc.
  • Sarasota Architectural Salvage
  • Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte County
  • University of Florida Center for Construction and Environment

The Deconstruction Institute is currently managed by Jesse White, Principal of Resource Management Group, Inc., and founder of Sarasota Architectural Salvage.

Although much of the information is oriented to the state of Florida, there are many resource materials of value to individuals and companies from throughout the country.

For instance, the on-line Deconstruction Calculator was developed as a means to project the energy, pollution, and savings when materials recovered through deconstruction are reused, thus saving embodied energy, labor and transportation when compared to virgin material extraction, processing, transportation, and distribution. Free membership to the Deconstruction Institute is available to anyone with Internet access.

Contact Information:


Second Chance, Inc.

Baltimore, Maryland

This non-profit enterprise, founded by Mark Foster in 2003, provides deconstruction, architectural salvage, and job training services, with a cooperative network ranging from Columbus, OH, to Newark, NJ, to Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD.

In the four years since start-up, the company has grown to over 50 employees working out of the Baltimore operation. The company has 3 deconstruction crews and a retail store crew that oversees more than 120,000 square feet of warehouse space in downtown Baltimore. Second Chance pioneered the effort in establishing contracts with the City of Baltimore that call for workforce development funds for training and first right of refusal to deconstruct government buildings scheduled for takedown. Second Chance conducts a 16-week training program on a zero tolerance basis. Once the training is completed satisfactorily, the worker is guaranteed a permanent job with the company. Second Chance’s goal is to create skilled workers making a living wage with benefits for themselves and their families.

Trainees are recruited through city workforce development programs. So far, all trainees have completed the rigorous training program. The reason, asserts Mark Foster, is that “We are not just offering a good job, but employment in a growing company and sector of the economy and a pathway to a career.”

Contact Information: Second Chance, Inc. 1645 Warner St Baltimore, MD 21230, (410) 385-1101


Green Institute

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Green Institute was established in 1993 after a 12 year battle against a garbage transfer station that had been proposed for the neighborhood of Phillips. The proposed site for the transfer station instead became the home of a ground-breaking new green building owned and operated by The Green Institute. The 64,000 square foot building was a pilot project for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system which was then being developed as a standard tool for developing and accrediting green buildings. As such, every element of the project was carefully planned to minimize its environmental impact and maximize overall efficiency, from the selection of the site and building materials, through the design of its mechanical systems to reduce long-term operating costs. The Center provides a healthy and energy efficient work environment for the staff of the Green Institute, as well as some of the most outstanding forward thinking organizations in the area. Rents from the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center contribute about 20% of The Green Institute’s total revenue. Re-used materials were, of course, used extensively in the construction of the project.

Since 1993, the Institute has evolved into a $3.4 million dollar non-profit organization that promotes community revitalization through its four sustainable enterprises. These include the Phillips Community Energy Cooperative, GreenSpace Partners, and the Green Buildings Program.

Its primary business, however, is its DeConstruction Services operation and The ReUse Center retail stores. DeConstruction Services contracts out its crews to dismantle buildings by hand, saving the materials to be used again instead of sending them to the landfill. The building owner receives a tax receipt for the retail value of the salvaged materials. The goods are then sold directly to the public through two retail locations of The ReUse Center, generating around $2 million annually. Together, the ReUse Center and DeConstruction Services reclaim over 4,000 tons of material per year for resale. Most materials come from dismantling residential buildings, but commercial projects are also considered.

Although DeConstruction Services does not offer a separate consultation service, the organization does provide assessments to larger clients prior to starting their dismantling work that gives the client an estimate of the value they can expect from the materials.

Crew members are paid $12 an hour and also receive health and dental benefits, as well as a 401K plan, a health club membership, and life and disability insurance. Training is accomplished through on the job mentoring with the goal of providing an “up and out” opportunity to disadvantaged people by giving them basic trade skills and a good reference for future advancement. The organization has not had much difficulty in finding workers to replace those who are able to move on into the skilled trades.

Contact Information: