Deconstruction Seminar in Kansas Draws Questions

By Mark Bullock

I am often approached by contractors who say they have been making concerted efforts to “go green” and want to know how they can work with me to do more. Their customers are asking for green approaches as well, and governmental licensing agencies are responding to the interest and demand.

Recently, I were asked to present a two-hour seminar entitled, “Utilizing Deconstruction in Residential Construction,” for licensed contractors in Johnson County, Kansas. Brian Alferman, Associate Director of the Habitat ReStore Kansas City, was my co-presenter.

Brian and I discussed all the salient points of deconstruction and gave a PowerPoint presentation complete with photos, charts and graphs illustrating the environmental, personal, social and financial benefits of deconstruction. We displayed actual materials that we had saved from completed jobs, as well as a few specialized tools used in the deconstruction trade. We concluded the seminar with a question-and-answer session and discussion.

During the Q&A, we fielded questions such as, “Who takes the deduction on items donated?” We answered, “The owner of the goods—usually the homeowner, unless the items were purchased by the contractor and left over.” Many contractors in the room took exception to this reality, feeling that they should be entitled to some of the benefits if they invested extra time and cost to carefully extract whatever was being donated.

Others questioned the value of saving certain materials. As one individual put it, “Who wants old, hard lumber that you can’t drive a nail into?” We told them that we cannot keep our lumber barn full—lumber is one of our best selling items. Reclaimed lumber can be used for a variety of purposes where codes allow, and with pneumatic nail guns hardness does not seem to be a problem. 

Several in the audience questioned how deconstruction could save money over traditional demolition. In answer, we described in detail the donation and appraisal processes.

At the end of the seminar, many contractors came up to the podium and talked with Brian and me about the industry. One thing I kept hearing was that, in this slow economy, people are doing things that they never used to do. Guys are hungry for work and they are looking at any and all work that pays. Also, it seems like they are looking for an edge. In a competitive bidding situation, if contractors A and B plan to demolish your kitchen and throw it in a dumpster to replace it with new, and along comes contractor C who offers to deconstruct your kitchen, donate it to a nonprofit, keep it out of the landfill AND get you a tax deduction to offset the costs, then contractor C has a distinct competitive advantage.

My biggest challenge with contractors in the Kansas City area is to get them to stop and think before they throw something away. They have to see that used items still have value. I hear people say all the time, “It would make you sick what I have thrown away over the years.” That statement needs to become an echo from the past. We need to look at used building materials the same way we view used cars or resale houses. As a society, we still value those items and we use them without hesitation, but once a building material or product has been pulled loose from its original location, it is viewed as trash.

Brian and I were invited back for the winter and spring sessions, so we will continue to spread the word on going green by using deconstruction.

—Mark Bullock is TRP Regional Manager for Kansas City


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