Archive for August, 2012

The Salvage Path – a Side Yard of Repurposed Goods

James Taylor  has been with The RE Store’s Seattle field crew for over a decade now, helping to fill the stores with artfully removed and carefully preserved salvaged materials.  But as a self-avowed packrat (in recovery) and homeowner, he also has many pieces that have gone home with him – many still waiting to become projects too someday.   His side yard is one of those projects that will perhaps constantly evolve as he finds new treasures to add, but it a such a great spot of salvage inspiration and creativity – that we just had to share.

Literally almost every element of this eclectic and tranquil garden is salvage material.  As you can imagine, James does get a first look at almost all the materials that come into the store via our free salvage pick up services – and over time this has culminated in a garden full of treasures.  The pathway and edging (above, left) was created from Seattle brick and cobble stones – even the sand used for setting the brick was salvaged from a former concrete-counter maker neighbor of The RE Store, Dog Paw.  The weather vane (above, right) was taken from a job we did with King County removing houses in a floodplain.

The planters are all components that have had former lives as wash basin or a mop sink (above left and right) – items that were dropped off at the store from folks that had already used these items as something other than their original tasks – giving them 3 or more lives at least (now that is the kind of re-use commitment we like to see!).  And a stone whose former role was as an address marker, turned on its side (above, center) makes for a perfect seat in the center of this garden to take it all in.

Every last detail has a salvaged past – from the hose stand-offs made out of andirons (that someone made out of railroad track – not pictured) and homemade targets (above, left) to a bench created from sandstone pulled from a retaining wall in the Denny Regrade, piled with bocce balls and shot-puts salvaged from a high school job.

A creative fellow for sure – he has recently added the title of Designer/Builder for our Seattle REvision Division to his role – giving him the license to create the objects for places beyond just his yard as he plucks material from the jaws of the landfill.  Come check out some of his recent creations!

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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Appliance Soap Box Derby video – crashes, injuries & mayhem

Our friends at Appliance Depot know how to have a good time, even if it means spilling a little blood. Refrigerators, stoves, washers and random appliance parts became vehicles racing down Maple Street in Bellingham. The annual Appliance Art Revival & Derby celebrates reuse, creativity and the good work that Appliance Depot does, rebuilding appliances and providing job training in Bellingham, Washington. Yours truly at The RE Store sponsored the Revival, including recording and editing this wacky video!

Thanks to Matt McDonald of for supplying the missing epic “crash into the crowd” photo footage and to Adam Nash Photography for the fork failure shots of Blue Steel and others.

Are you bold enough to race next year? Awwww, come on.

Posted in: Green business, Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about stuff, Video posts, You can do it yourself

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Back to School – Chalkboards, Lockers and Old Pioneer Middle School

The Seattle Field Crew Goes Back to School in Steilacoom

Notes from the Field – by Ryan DeSales

Just when we thought our summer-school days were behind us, it was back-to-school for the Seattle RE Store’s field crew this July.  Fortunately, as we salvaged the Old Pioneer Middle School located in historic Steilacoom, we didn’t have to memorize the periodic table or state capitals this time around (quick, what’s the capital of North Dakota?). Instead, we got to remove cast iron radiators, slate chalkboards, and yes, rows and rows of shiny gym lockers (P.S., it’s Bismarck).

Students haven’t walked the halls of Old Pioneer since 2008 when it was replaced by the new Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, but the Seattle field crew got an all-access salvage pass. Although the historic school no longer holds classes, it is slated to get a new lease on life as the Steilacoom School District’s administrative center. The RE Store was proud to be part of this transition by salvaging reusable materials before renovations begin. It’s always nice to be the first into a historic structure such as this one, rather than the last out of it.

We started our adventure by removing the steam radiators from the school’s original two story brick classroom building, which was built in 1918. Despite forgetting our trusty monkey wrench, we were able to disconnect the rusty pipes using a pair of Channellocks and a pry bar as a lever—our old science and shop teachers would be proud. After loading a ton of radiators, quite literally, onto the truck, we moved on to slate chalkboards. For those of you that have never had the pleasure of removing a real slate chalkboard, we highly recommend it as a character building exercise. If you have enough character, but need a cool slate counter top, please visit the Seattle RE Store. For some inspiration, check out this great blog post with examples of chalk board reuse from House Appeal.

Alas, there were only so many chalkboards to carry, so we decided to relive gym class by removing some lockers. The gym facility was added in 1952, along with some pretty awesome metallic green, wrinkle-finish lockers. In case you were wondering, that locker room smell never quite goes away. After freeing up many a stubborn locker and finding a considerable amount of spare change, it was time to clean up by pulling some trough sinks and a mop sink as well.

All told, the field crew removed five truck loads worth of materials from Old Pioneer, including: mahogany bookshelves, dry erase boards, work tables, lockers, illuminated fire escape signs, and even a pottery wheel. While we love to save history by salvaging it, this was one job where we were happy to leave things mostly intact.

And that was what we did over our summer.

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about people, Stories about stuff

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Mainstreaming Green Demolition and Reuse With Tom Napier

Tom Napier has a big brain. He works as a “Research Architect” for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center / Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. He has also served as president of the national Building Materials Reuse Association, and is involved in the Design-Build Institute of America and Construction Specifications Institute. Based on his own research, Napier has concluded that reusing materials could reduce the environmental impacts of water use, air and water pollution, and disposal by as much as 99%. “That’s almost a total reduction of adverse impacts compared to manufacturing new items,” Napier says.

State Street warehouse series

State Street warehouse takedown – green demolition aka deconstruction

More and more case studies are being accrued in the green building and demolition industry showing the true viability of these practices, increasing jobs, reducing waste and saving money for contractors and home/building owners.

Tom put out a bucket list of changes that would transform the building industry, boosting the reuse industry and green demolition aka deconstruction into the mainstream. The bucket list was reprinted recently on the ReBuilding Center’s blog, The Reclamation Administration, and we thought it was worthy of reposting as well. The following list contains four of the 6 items. If this gets your gears turning like it does for us, read the rest of the list and his further ideas in the original article on Ecohome, a magazine of the American Institute of Architects

Here’s the list:

  1. The conflict between demolition and deconstruction disappears. The routine is to reuse what can be reused, recycle what can be recycled, and landfill the little bit that’s left.
    “Buildings have to be demolished,” Napier admits. “That’s just a fact of life. What we are trying to do, once a decision is made for a building to come down, instead of the default being to put materials in a landfill or recycling the steel, there are additional avenues of conservation that can be practiced that are not as common as the mainstream. We just want to bring those into the tool kit as well.”
  2. Promoters of “green building” rating systems fully appreciate the impacts of waste and life-cycle benefits of materials reuse, and give full credit to reuse as a major contributor to sustainability.
    “The path of least resistance becomes that which the point chasers exercise,” Napier says. “In a perfect world, there would be some kind of hierarchy—the closest use to the original form gets the most points and the farther you divert, or the more resources you put into making something different, then you get fewer points.”
  3. Architectural and engineering professionals, as agents to building owners, educate their clients and vigorously promote salvage and reuse where practical.
    In an ideal world, Napier says the value of reused materials would be ingrained in the construction industry infrastructure, starting with academia. “If I were king and I had a really long-term vision, I would be starting back to the educational systems and architectural programs and civil engineering programs and make this part of the value scheme of people coming up in the building professions,” Napier says. “That’s going to take a couple of generations.”
  4. Deconstruction, salvage, and used material businesses develop a robust and highly visible infrastructure within the building industry. Services are available for any type of project, any time, and at any location.
    According to Napier, this will mean changing up the business model. “When you think about the business model of a demolition contractor, they don’t have a material handling or interim phase between the acquisition of material and the ultimate reuse,” he explains. “Getting those kinds of businesses started and getting them active and working is going to certainly give more options to building owners, property owners, demolition contractors, and designers.”

Read the rest of the list and elaboration on the original article on Ecohome.

What would you like to see to help transform the mountains of construction and demolition trash into reusable materials, green jobs and stewardship of our home?

Posted in: Green business, Reference and resources, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry

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This just in – Salvage treasures from Old Pioneer Middle School

a sampling of this week's salvage finds from Old Pioneer School

Our Seattle field crew has brought in all sorts of items from this week’s school salvage job at Old Pioneer Middle School in Steilacoom, Washington.  Originally built in 1923, some of the items are from that time period: slabs of chalkboard slate, radiators and trough sinks.  Lockers, bookcases (plywood and mahogany), and school desks all seem to be from the upgrades in the 1960’s.  Some of the more random things that came to us from Old Pioneer are illuminated Fire Escape signs and a kiln vent hood.  A new building was built for the middle school in recent years, and while the fate of the original structure is still to be determined, we were happy to get in there and salvage what we could!

Also just in:  custom doors from JAS Design/Build (above, top left).  At 113″ tall, these 3 door panels will take a unique spot to call home, but they are beautifully crafted.  Come check out these materials in the Seattle store now, and in Bellingham within a week or so.

Posted in: Stories about stuff

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