Monday, August 3, 2009

Area's first full-house deconstruction starts in Wyoming

Last Tuesday, Building Value began its first full-house deconstruction at 641 Oak Avenue in Wyoming.

Between 10 and 15 staff, trainees, and volunteers will take less than a week to complete the project.

"We expected five days, but we're a little ahead of schedule," said Building Value director Jerry Janszen. "They're really on a roll right now."

The City of Wyoming will be left with a pristine green space, and between 70 and 90 percent of the structure's building materials will be diverted to Building Value's retail outlet at 2901 Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills.

"We're going to bring an excavator in here and pull out all of the concrete," Janszen said. "So when this project is finished, the city will backfill it with topsoil. It's going to be a clean lot."

Approximately 4,000 board feet of lumber will be salvaged, the equivalent of 22 mature trees.

"We certainly cannot afford to keep filling our landfills with perfectly good lumber while we harvest our forests to create new," Janszen said.

City saw benefit

The City of Wyoming purchased the 1,520-square-foot house, built in 1940, in January 2009.

Inspections revealed so many structural problems that it couldn't be saved, and city officials deemed the house to expensive to rehabilitate.

For answers, the city looked to its 2007 Master Plan, which placed a special emphasis on green, sustainable solutions through its Urban Forestry Board, Beautify Wyoming Commission, recycling efforts, and community gardens.

"The community input received during the discussion leading up to the adoption of the 2007 Master Plan provided strong support for expanding the City of Wyoming's efforts related to environmental stewardship," said Terrance Vanderman, community development director for the City of Wyoming. "The deconstruction of 641 Oak Avenue is a good example of this work. After reviewing the relative merits of deconstructing the house, it was obvious that the overall benefits outweighed the marginal cost differential."

Deconstruction a progressive option

"We didn't know as we were preparing for this that the first project would end up in Wyoming," Janszen said. "But we knew it would have to be a community that wasn't afraid to take a lead. A community whose growth is the result of careful planning, and whose residents play an active role in preserving the beauty of their community for future generations."

Janszen said that the community of Wyoming should be commended for thinking outside of the box by choosing deconstruction over the easier choice of demolition.

"Unfortunately, we hear it too many times," Janszen said. "Just tear it down. What does it matter?"

To make sure that its first multi-story deconstruction project was completed successfully, Building Value contracted with RE-USE Consulting, named 2009 National Building Deconstructor of the Year by the Building Materials Reuse Association.

"One of the things we're seeing across the country is that demolition of buildings in a community is kind of a dead-end street," said Dave Bennink, owner of RE-USE Consulting.

Bennink added that demolition doesn't offer anything back to the community, citing a recent study that concluded that, in addition to providing low-cost materials that can be incorporated into new affordable housing, deconstruction creates 20 times more jobs than demolition.

"We think that we can make deconstruction for building removal a mainstream choice across the country," he said. "The point there is that, someday, more than 50 percent of the buildings will be deconstructed, because we can't afford to keep demolishing them. And it offers no benefits."

Developing a workforce

Founded in 2004 by Easter Seals Work Resource Center, Building Value was established to provide valuable work experience to people with disabilities and workforce disadvantages through the sale of salvaged and donated building items.

Previously, Building Value has done deconstruction work on the University of Cincinnati's Sawyer Hall dormitory and several local hospitals.

Its first full-structure deconstruction project was the removal of a horse barn in Indian Hill.

"We've been honing our deconstruction skills for five years, with a lot of residential jobs, a lot of interior work," Janszen said.

Buildings typically are dismantled in a hybrid man-machine fashion, with wall sections, or panels, disassembled, de-nailed, and sorted at work stations on the ground.

This minimizes the number of people needed on rooftops and other dangerous parts of the building, while giving employees the opportunity to develop multiple skills.

The idea is that these skills will allow the employees to enter the private workforce, opening up spots for new workers.

"For any employers out there, I can assure you that these are hardworking and dedicated employees," Janszen said. "And after this project, they will be available for interviews."

Moving to Northside

At its 15,000-square-foot Walnut Hills retail outlet, Janszen says that they sell reclaimed building materials and historic fixtures at "embarrassingly low prices".

But they're quickly running out of space, and because of its move into full-structure deconstruction and the surge in green construction initiatives, Building Value is planning to move to a much larger space at 4040 Spring Grove Avenue in Northside this October.

The non-profit purchased the property in May for $450,000 and is currently investigating ways to make it a green remodel.

To date, Building Value has diverted more than 5,000 tons of materials from local landfills and has provided experience and unemployment to more than 150 individuals.

Previous reading on BC:
Dohoney: Hazard abatement funding too low for large-scale deconstruction program (6/17/09)