Yale University Marsh HallIf you are interested in building-materials salvage and/or deconstruction -- and your subscription to this e-letter tells me you are -- then you should check out the Building Materials Reuse Association DECON ‘11 conference and, if possible, attend. This year’s event is May 15-19 on the campus of Yale University, New Haven CT. To learn the particulars, visit www.BMRA.org

In addition to outstanding sessions, speakers and exhibitors, the Yale campus alone is worth a visit. Walking the campus and surrounding area is like taking a trip back in time. The architecture of the university buildings and adjacent residences is breathtaking. As a deconstruction practitioner and salvager of building materials I practically drool.

The ReUse HausOver the past few years, the perception of the backyard shed has slowly been changing. No longer merely a "mini-barn" for the storage of lawn mowers, tools, pool supplies and broken bicycles, contemporary backyard structures are designed to serve any number of practical (or frivolous) purposes.

Giving Building Materials a Second LifeAs a baby boomer who has spent over 35 years in the architectural and real estate development professions, I'm aware that the current economic downturn has made many of my peers revaluate where they are going in both their personal and professional lives. Some have regretfully waived the defeat flag and headed for retirement. Others have reinvented themselves in second careers, and in so doing given themselves exciting new lives.

In an analogous rebirth, perfectly good building material that once would have been buried in a landfill is now enjoying a second life through creative reuse.

TRP is expanding again, this time at the home office. In December we opened a second warehouse at our Oakland facility, adding 9,000 square feet to our retail complex. The new building is about 60 feet from the original warehouse, adjacent to our 6,000 square-foot lumber yard.

Why add more rent and personnel costs in recessionary times? Quite simply, we want to increase sales and need more space to do it. TRP prides itself in keeping more materials out of landfills than do most used building-material retailers. This requires that we accept a wide range of inventory, including more mundane items like single-glazed windows and hollow-core flush doors. If we reduced our inventory of lower-value items to make room for more high-value materials, no additional space would be required (at least for now). However, excessive cherry-picking goes against our mission.

The Many Faces of Solid Waste DiversionThe largest component of municipal solid waste in the U.S. is construction and demolition debris (C&D)—from 25 to 50 percent on average. Because of this, C&D ranks fairly high on the priority lists of policymakers and industry professionals seeking to maximize waste diversion.

But what exactly qualifies as diversion? Many contractors and recyclers have tended to obfuscate the term, while others simply think that by now everyone should know what it means. For the record, solid-waste diversion is the channeling of discarded materials away from landfills using environmentally-responsible means. Diversion includes both recycling and reuse, which have noteworthy differences.

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