It’s a silly question, isn’t it? How could something so massive as a building be recycled? Well, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Though we tend to think of buildings as singular entities, in reality, they are complex structures made of thousands (if not millions) of smaller parts. And, even though a building may be at the end of its life cycle, the components that make it up aren’t. Let’s take a closer look.
Reuse and Recycle
Most buildings are fantastic candidates for deconstruction — that is, the pre-demolition salvage of materials that are valuable or reusable. Rather than demolishing everything indiscriminately, contractors and homeowners can spend a little time carefully deconstructing a building and reclaiming the parts that make it up.
The reuse of building materials offers many benefits. First and foremost, it keeps perfectly useful items from ending up in the landfill. Second, it reduces the demand for new resources. Finally, it makes affordable building materials available to the community, as well as charities like Habitat for Humanity.
Building materials that are often reusable include:
- Plumbing fixtures (bathtubs, sinks, toilets)
- Cabinets and stairs
- Doors and windows
- Wood (hardwood flooring, weatherboards, beams, posts)
- Bricks, marble, and stone
- Electrical fittings (light fixtures, switches, thermostats)
- Finishings (skirting, wood paneling, cabinets)
- Fiberglass, wool, and polyester insulation
- Roof tiles
Beyond reuse, there are also many common construction materials that can be recycled and made into new products, including metals, untreated timber, vegetation, topsoil, concrete, and asphalt. Earth911’s Beginner’s Guide to Deconstruction provides some pointers to get you started.