Many houses in Portola Valley are reaching the end of their built life-spans, and as a result, the Town is seeing a growing number of structures being demolished as applications for new residences are submitted. However, increasingly more and more of these structures aren't simply being "demolished," they are being deconstructed, either in part or in totality. Demolishing a structure is quick and easy, however, it is often an incredible waste of potentially reusable materials. A majority of Portola Valley demolition debris used to end up in our local landfills until the Town adopted a Construction & Demolition Ordinance in 2000 that required much of this debris to be recycled, if not salvaged. Today, the Town strongly encourages you to consider deconstruction and salvage of your existing home to allow for the reuse (or redistribution) of building materials as an alternative to simply demolishing and recycling the structure's components.
Deconstruction is the process of carefully and selectively removing and dismantling materials for repurposing either in the new structure or for use elsewhere. It is estimated that about 70 - 90% of an existing home can be reclaimed. This may include framing lumber, wood flooring, shelving, doors and windows, appliances, lighting and plumbing fixtures, concrete, and many other materials. Materials that are unable to be reused are then separated out for recycling to return to the product stream.
Taking the time (as much as two weeks) to deconstruct a house offers numerous benefits to the property owner and the environment. Portions of the building that will not be reused in the new construction project can be donated to non-profit organizations (that resell them or use them in community projects), generating a tax deduction for the property owner, which can significantly, or totally, offset the cost of the deconstruction work. These reclaimed materials are kept out of landfills and from being unnecessarily demolished and then recycled. Needless to say, this benefits the environment by generating less solid waste, less demand on natural and manufactured materials, and less CO2 and other gasses entering the environment during the processes of producing new materials.
As you begin the design phase of your new home or addition/remodel, take time to research just how easily you can incorporate deconstruction into your construction project. The following websites can assist you in deconstruction and salvage:
Deconstruction & ReUse Network
The ReUse People
Whole House Building Supply & Salvage