The Elephant in the Room, er ... Jobsite

Like many organizations in the construction trades, TRP doesn’t have enough field people available to find and execute potential contracts. The cost of keeping talented workers has risen dramatically.

Until last week I failed to see a solution to this dilemma, beyond offering greater compensation than other employers and passing the cost on to the customer, the probable result of which would be less business for us and more for the demolition guys. Ugh.

While pondering the situation, I happened upon a small article in The Wall Street Journal about the use of elephants to remove illegal buildings in Africa and India.

Now there’s an idea.

According to some people in this industry, the notion of using elephants to deconstruct residential and commercial structures is not as crazy as other ideas I’ve had, like enticing building owners to make tax-deductible donations of materials, or encouraging nonprofits to offer incentives and bonuses for outstanding employee performance, or shipping reusable materials across the continent to more friendly markets.

So with that understood let’s examine the possibilities. Using a hybrid deconstruction process, with giant pachyderms doing the heavy lifting and structural knock-down, only two or three humans would be needed to do the light work of shrink-wrapping cabinets, de-nailing, sorting and banding lumber and driving trucks. Just think, deconstruction contractors would no longer need to buy or rent scaffolding, scissor lifts or forklifts to reach rafters, roof decking or ridge beams, all of which could be dexterously handled by the prehensile appendages of the crew’s elephant contingent. I’m betting that the savings would drive more demand for deconstruction.

The average deconstruction worker makes around $30,000 a year. Add to that payroll taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, and benefits and you’re up to at least $40,000 a year for an entry level worker. Naturally, workers that excel should receive substantial wage increases and promotions. What would our friendly pachyderms need? In addition to standard loving care, perhaps a gourmet vegan treat?

Feeding an elephant would cost about $12,000 a year. Add to that the expense of a veterinarian. Indirect costs would include appropriate housing and a truck for transporting the elephant to the jobsite, however these are capital items that could be depreciated over several years.

One drawback is the difficulty of mediating conflict. A disgruntled human can seek other employment, but I don’t relish being around an angry elephant. I’m old enough to remember how close we came to losing Elizabeth Taylor to the rampaging “Elephant Walk.” I’d rather stay on their good side.

I realize that this plan may raise the ire of animal rights folks, but with some consulting help from an elephant trainer (oops, another expense!) and my background as an OSHA construction trainer, I’m confident we can eliminate exposure to dangerous situations.

However, there are two OSHA requirements I’m having trouble with. Every jobsite must have at least one portable toilet and one hand-washing station - well, in this case a trunk-washing station. Solutions, anyone? 

Location and Contact Information

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Oakland
9235 San Leandro Street
Oakland, CA  94603
(510) 383-1983; toll-free 888-588-9490
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-6:00 Closed Sunday

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Los Angeles
3015 Dolores Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00; Sat 10:00-4:00

Please visit our partnering warehouses:

Reuse Depot
50 West Madison
Maywood, IL 60153
(708) 223-0502
Hours: Wed-Mon 10:00-6:00p; Closed Tuesdays

Salvage Too - Rockford Reuse Center
907 S Main Street
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 963-6236
Hours: Tue-Fri, 11:00am-4:30pm

The ReUse Warehouse
1400 East Geer Street
Durham, NC 27704
(919) 219-4913
Hours: Mon-Fri, 2:00-6:00; Sat, 9:30-5:00

Second Chance Building Materials Center
1423 West Grove Street
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 331-2707
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:00-6:00; Sun, 12:00-5:00

Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity
7025 Hwy 82
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
(970) 945-7733
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00-5:30; Sat, 10:00-5:00; Sun, 11:00-4:00

Stardust Building Supply
3901 E. Thunderbird Road
Phoenix, AZ 85032
(602) 459-9803
Hours: Mon-Sat, 8:00-6:00; Sun, 10:00-4:00

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt Lake Valley,
1276 South 500 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 263-0136
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm; closed Sunday

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Summit & Wasatch Counties
6280 N. Silver Creek Drive, Silver Summit, UT
(435) 487-9015
Hours: Wed-Sat 10:00-6:00; closed Sunday

Recycle Utah
1951 Woodbine Way Park City, UT 84060
(435) 649-9698
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:00-5:30; Sun 10:00-4:00

New England Reuse
400 Sackett Point Rd
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 230-2638
Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00p; Saturday 9:00-1:00p

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