Decreasing Construction Costs by Salvaging, Repurposing, Reusing and Recycling

Posted on Apr 9, 2013 by Theresa Lehman

If you’re thinking about renovating, expanding, or building new, have you thought about the items that you can salvage and reuse in the new space, or the items that can be recycled?

At Miron Construction, one of our goals is to minimize waste.  We strive to work with the entire team to evaluate what can be salvaged and repurposed in the new space, what can be salvaged and donated to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, what can be salvaged and sold, and what can be recycled as part of the deconstruction phase (which is the removal of salvageable items in the reverse order of their construction). This process diverts materials from going to a landfill.

For instance, on the 2008 renovation and expansion project of Lake Mills Middle School in Lake Mills, Wis., the Miron team worked with the district to analyze what made more sense: building a new middle school or renovating and expanding the existing one.  A decision was made to expand and renovate the existing middle school, and deconstruct the old 1938 gymnasium.

The team also decided which existing materials could be reused and/or re-purposed: the brick, a steel truss and the original dedication plaque from the 1938 gymnasium were incorporated into the new entrance of the Lake Mills Campus Field, home of the athletic fields and the former 1938 gymnasium.

Items from the gymnasium that were salvaged, and either donated or sold, included: the brick, wood gym floor, wood bleachers, light fixtures and the elevator. The majority of the structure and mechanical system were recycled.

Similarly, the Lake Mills School District and the design-build team recently evaluated the existing elementary school. However, this time, the team decided to deconstruct the existing elementary school and build a new one on the existing site.

The district, along with the design-build team, spent time analyzing the existing elementary school and determined what items will be salvaged and incorporated into the new project, and what items will be recycled.

At the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the limestone façade salvaged from the demolition of an old residence hall was repurposed for an outdoor seating area and a fireplace surround inside the new Horizon Village Residence Hall.

Items that are typically salvaged from existing buildings and reused include:

  • Brick
  • Cabinetry and countertops
  • Doors and hardware
  • Millwork and shelving
  • Office workstations (cubicles, file cabinets, desks and chairs)
  • Plumbing fixtures (sinks and vanity tops)
  • Electrical fixtures (ceiling fans, “newer” fluorescent light fixtures)

There are associations dedicated to the reuse and recycling of construction demolition debris—the Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA) and the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) are two. Non-profit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, help facilitate the diversion of materials from landfills by salvaging them for other construction projects, and/or selling them at deeply discounted prices at the Habitat ReStore.

By implementing construction waste management plans, Miron has diverted thousands of tons of materials from going to landfills.  These efforts have resulted in a win-win: minimized environmental impacts and thousands of dollars saved for our clients. Projects with notable percentages of construction materials diverted from landfills include: Wausau Window & Wall Systems (99%), UW-Fox Valley James W. Perry Hall Communications Art Center (99%), UW-River Falls George R. Field South Fork Suites Addition/Remodel (96%), Miron Construction Corporate Office Expansion &  (95%), and Veolia Hickory Meadows – Landfill Gas to Energy Project (95%).

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About Theresa Lehman

Dedicating her entire career to sustainable practice, Theresa has worked on more than 70 projects seeking LEED® certification utilizing the LEED®-NC, LEED®-CI, LEED®-CS, LEED®-EBOM, and LEED® for Schools green building rating systems. She has successfully certified projects that have earned LEED® certification at all four award levels including: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Her portfolio of LEED® projects includes many “Wisconsin firsts” such as the first State of Wisconsin LEED® certified project, the first healthcare facility, the first LEED®-EBOM Schools, the first LEED® for Schools project and the first zero-net energy / carbon neutral project–the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center–the “greenest building on the planet” according to Rick Fedrizzi, former President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council.

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