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Amanda Harvey
Amanda
Harvey

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Deconstruction: an eco-friendly alternative to demolition

Last modified: 2019/03/31 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Moving forward with a renovation project often brings to mind the idea of building rather than destroying. Of course, construction implies that a demolition must take place before a new structure can be built. However, the sheer amount of debris produced by demolitions has become a growing concern, as construction sites tend to completely neglect the recycling of materials.

As a result, some innovative companies have stepped up to the plate to tackle the growing issue of waste generated by the conversion of a building, (either partially or totally) and are proposing an ecological alternative to demolition: deconstruction. Deconstruction, also known as strip-out or selective demolition,  is still in the shadows of demolition despite its recent break into the Canadian market. Luckily, our article will give this subject the attention it deserves.

Here’s everything you need to know about deconstruction

A definition of deconstruction

To be specific, deconstruction consists of dismantling installations or structures while making sure to preserve the materials. These materials are collected and then redirected to authorities in charge of transforming them into usable materials that can be put back on the market. When they are returned to manufacturers or stores to be sold, they’ve taken on a brand new form.

Alternatively, these materials are resold and reused in future projects. Therefore, it’s possible to say that the recycling and reusing of materials are the central objectives of deconstruction.

Construction and demolition involve many different procedures and components, and this includes manufacturing, packaging, labeling and installing. Since most building materials are made of new parts, they both effect and consume a large number of natural resources. As mentioned, the process of deconstruction offers a new source of materials which have already been through the manufacturing process. Not only does this save raw materials but it avoids energy consumption. Further, in most cases, the materials themselves move directly to the consumer and thus they require less packaging, as well as shipping and storage costs.

The myth of the non-profitability of deconstruction

source: Pexels

Although it’s true that the process of deconstruction requires more work, and thus more workers, deconstruction experts would argue that the value of the recovered and reused components offsets the additional costs generated by the need to employ more people. As Recycle-Quebec emphasizes, “the resale of the removed materials makes it possible to realize a certain profit, which is not possible when you hire demolishers and which compensates the sorting efforts.”

The amount of demolition materials sent to landfills is huge and often comparable to municipal trash collection. Therefore, the deconstruction process can cut landfill waste in half. Deconstruction works directly to cut down the present waste in landfills and this has a direct reflection on our environment. There are direct links to air quality and groundwater improvement. Even further, there is a reduction of chemicals and components found in electronic devices that find their way into the environment following a traditional demolition.

A particularly persistent myth is that the cost of processing the different materials gathered on site is higher than that of their disposal. This may be true for the processing of carpet and plastic. However, other materials (metals, gypsum board, wood pieces, doors or mineral wool) are processed at a cost comparable to their disposal.

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Minimal equipment to deconstruct a building

As you may be able to see, deconstruction has undeniable advantages over demolition. In specific instances, housing or offices located on upper floors may be difficult to access with heavy equipment or large machinery. The tools and devices necessary for this process are considerably less massive and will be more suitable for the realizations of high-rise or inaccessible projects.

Since only hammers, saws (circular or mechanical) or levers will be required to carry out the deconstruction process, the costs related to the equipment are much lower than those involved in a demolition project. In addition, noise and dust will be considerably less than those caused by the demolition of the room or building in question.

Lastly, one of the primary determents of traditional demolitions, as well as landfill buildup, is the methane that’s produced. Methane contributes to the thinning of the ozone layer and climate change. The requirement of heavy equipment creates greenhouse emissions. Further, many landfills use incineration to process the excess materials and this has a negative impact on air quality. By using less machinery as well as keeping excessive materials out of landfills, deconstruction is an eco-friendly process that actively contributes to saving our environment.

Deconstruction: an organized process

source: Pixabay

The deconstruction process is largely opposed to demolition, in that it must follow a particular order to ensure the preservation of materials as well as the safety of the workers. Indeed, the deconstruction process must start with the dismantling of the interior installations to progressively widen its perimeter of action towards the outside.

Moreover, the organization takes on its full meaning when it comes to sorting materials by category directly onsite to avoid contaminating them. Although this step considerably increases the time required for the project to be executed compared to that of a demolition project, it is possible to optimize the rate of reuse of the recovered materials.

Some interesting figures

Currently, recycling on construction sites amounts to about 74% for concrete and asphalt, while the rate drops to 25% for materials such as mineral wool, wood or gypsum. The relevance of making deconstruction a common practice is directly related to the loss of a large number of materials on construction sites.

 

A small warning

Do not hesitate to ask for several quotes in order to make a final choice for who will be in charge of carrying out your deconstruction project, prices varying greatly from one company to another.

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