Hello Dwell, I enjoyed the renovations I have read about in your magazine. I wonder, though, if I want to renovate, say, my kitchen, what can I do with the cabinets and other furnishings so they don’t just end up in the landfill?–James Welker
Dear James, There’s always a hard way to do things. And then there’s an easy way. In the case of deconstruction, the hard way involves debating the principles of an outmoded French philosophy with anemic undergraduates until the world as we know it no longer makes sense. The easy way, thankfully, has absolutely nothing to do with Derrida hierarchical dualisms, philosophy, or nerds. Simply put, it’s deconstruction-the actual physical kind.
What you may not know is that a whole industry exists to recycle or “harvest” building matter, and your participation is tax-deductible! (This can depend on what you decide to do with your deconstructed house)
Deconstruction is now a viable green alternative to demolition. Although dismantling a building piece by piece isn’t necessarily simple-it’s more time consuming and (initially) more expensive-ultimately it’s more rewarding. The costs can be recovered by donating the harvested materials, everything from insulation to the kitchen sink, to local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity (who cannot accept used materials themselves, but often partner with a local salvage yard so that proceeds from the sale of your item end up in the coffers) and claiming a tax credit. Often the very same salvage yards offer a deconstruction service and will lead you through the process from start to finish.
One such operation, Boulder, Colorado-based ReSource 2000, has in the past year allowed deconstruction clients to claim tax deductions ranging from $2,900 to $65,000. Ben Spencer, their deconstruction coordinator, points out that anything salvaged from a pre-1950s structure qualifies as antique, and materials from the 1980s to the present can compete with new products.
Operations such as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance are working on a national, regional, and local level to make deconstruction available in more communities by establishing retail yards and aiding in training. ILSR’s deconstruction program manager, Jim Primdahl, recently helped train 48 unemployed housing-project residents to dismantle 348 decrepit HUD townhouses in Washington, D.C. “It’s one of the few things that’s really a win-win situation,” he says. ” It’s a totally different science than putting together a building and once contractors learn of this option, they’re often thankful. You might have gotten 25 good years of use out of a product or material-and be done with it-but that’s not to say that it won’t be good for another 25 years. Deconstruction takes the embodied energy of the material to highest level.”
In the end, deconstruction benefits both the future owner of your kitchen cabinets, and possibly you on April 15.
©2002 Dwell At Home in the Modern World