Archive for October, 2012

Industrial Demolition Contractors Embrace Reuse and Recycling of Materials

What happens to a 1.2-million-square-foot aluminum plant when skyrocketing energy costs force its doors closed forever?

goldendale plant photo - before and midwayIn the wrong hands, it could become a massive pile of rubble languishing in a landfill. However, when the Goldendale Aluminum Plant in southern Washington shut down in 2003, the owners insisted on hiring industrial demolition contractors who could dismantle the plant with a minimal amount of waste sent to the landfill. That meant thousands of tons of materials – and truckloads of usable equipment – would need to be carefully extracted, sorted, processed and repurposed or recycled.

It was a project J.D. Elder, president of Elder Demolition, had been preparing for since starting the company in 1997. Back then, the contractor specialized in selective demolition of interior commercial spaces. Their previous work involved meticulously picking apart materials in tight urban spaces. Elder invested in state-of-the-art shears and other equipment that offered almost surgical precision.

Owning the right equipment paid off as the company transitioned to total structural demolition of industrial and commercial buildings. For eco-conscious industrial demolition contractors, Oregon offers plenty of green demolition opportunities – and Elder’s crew is often able to reuse or recycle up to 95 percent of a job’s materials. So when the bid for the Goldendale plant came around, they were ready.

Aftermath of Industrial Demolition

The Goldendale Aluminum Plant project was easily the largest job J.D. and his brother, Jeff Elder, had ever undertaken. By the time the contractors finished taking apart, they were left with 147,000 tons of debris, including:

  • 100,000 tons of concrete.
  • 35,000 tons of structural steel.
  • 10,000 tons of aluminum siding, roofing cable, conduit and copper wire.
  • Boilers and other usable equipment.

Concrete crushing at GoldendaleRepurposing Materials from the Goldendale Aluminum Plant

To deal with the 100,000 tons of concrete, Elder’s crew went to work with concrete shears. It took close to six months to remove all the rebar and slice the material into 3-inch chunks for crushing, Jeff Elder said. These were then loaded into the company’s concrete crusher, which chewed them up into gravel. Instead of purchasing new gravel, the Elder brothers reused all of the crushed concrete onsite to level the land – a cost-effective as well as eco-friendly solution. (J.D. Elder notes that the public can buy crushed concrete for half the price of gravel for their own DIY projects.)

There were also truckloads of perfectly functional industrial equipment salvaged from the plant. Ultimately, an entire building’s worth of machinery was sold for reuse. The steel, aluminum, copper, roofing cable and siding were all recycled. In the end, only 2,000 tons of debris went into the landfill – a mere 1 percent of the total demolished materials.

The RE Store’s green demolition and salvage services haven’t ever taken on a project this large, but we have worked with major demolition companies like Nuprecon and others.

Thanks to Elder Demolition for their guest post. Elder Demolition is a fully licensed and insured commercial and industrial demolition company, with certifications for hazardous waste handling as well as broad experience with LEED-certified green demolitions. 

Posted in: Green business, Stories about contractors, Stories about stuff

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Meet the Fleet – Trucks, Trailers and Moving Stuff Around

Truck collageWe like to move stuff around just as much as any American. The thing that The RE Store does differently is that each load that we carry on our trucks save precious building materials from the brink of doom by way of landfill or incinerator. It is a lot of work and we love it. Our crews drive over 100,000 miles each year if you combine all six of our trucks that roam throughout Western Washington and occasionally East of the mountains.

We have our weekly “truck love” maintenance schedule that insures our trusty steeds stay watered, fed and in as good a condition as we can keep them. Neither of the Seattle trucks have a lift gate. We use ramps or brute strength to get everything on and off and on and off and on and off every day. The trucks have hauled materials from job sites that include homes, businesses and storage facilities. We carry amazing reuse displays to trade shows or haul our Recycled Art Station to community events. The trucks have even hauled tons of trash picked up from our beach clean-up projects as a part of the annual Recycled Arts Show. We utilize biodiesel in our diesel trucks and work to minimize storm water run off from our job sites.

As is true to our car culture, The RE Store’s fleet of trucks all have their own personalities:

Lily the truckLily is a 2000 Ford F250 Crew Cab pickup with over 133,000 miles.
She is lily-white and is the truck that up to six of our Bellingham crew travels in. Lilly witnesses the most progressive conversations and brainstorms, due to her community-building roomy interior. She also carries lots of tools, but not a huge amount of materials. She loves to pull trailers and heave large timbers on her beefy rack. We wonder if she is a pig at heart, as she gets stuck in the mud all too often with her out-of-commission four wheel drive. Lilly has has spent a lot of time on overnight projects out in the San Juan Islands. Bellingham crew member, Charlie Myers, slept in Lilly’s back seat on a Lopez Island job site for four nights. His tent had collapsed under a downpour, so he made due in Lily.

Herman is a 2006 GMC-Isuzu 12-foot box van with over 137,000 miles.
Herman is the heavy lifter with a lift gate, allowing one crew member to do a lot of work and keep stuff dry. Herman is our workhorse and is the newest member of our fleet. He was an exciting replacement, 2 years ago, for our old open bed pickup, Graywolf. He is named after Mt. Herman that located close to Mt. Baker (big and white). Some of our staff wonder if Herman has a crush on Lily.

Blue truckBlue is a 1997 Chevy 3500 with a 12-foot flatbed, the oldest and most tired of our hard-working Bellingham fleet with a whopping 187,000 miles as of October 2012.
Blue has hauled millions of pounds (seriously) of lumber and large items back from thousands of job sites over the years. You name it, Blue has carried it. We have rebuilt the gates twice that close in the sides out of bleacher boards and rebuilt the bed once, out of salvaged 2×6 tongue and groove decking, all on our own. When Blue’s rear steel gates went missing, former crew member Gabe Gonzalez welded up new ones for us.

Possum, the truckPossum is a white, 2001 Isuzu flatbed with over 120,000 miles on the odometer.
We have had Possum for close to a decade. He was named Possum because a possum was living in the Seattle store that evaded capture for weeks. This trusty steed has hauled from more than 2000 job sites. Every brick load over the last seven years came back to the Seattle store on Possum’s strong back. Possums gates are made out of our bleacher board and the deck currently needs replacement, like Blue received.

Fuso, the truckFuso is a white 1994 Mitsubishi flatbed that we put a dump bed on with 175,000 miles.
Fuso has been the main green demolition / deconstruction truck thanks to the dump bed that we installed after buying it in 2007. 15 or more houses have been deconstructed and hauled back to the store in Fuso. This is our only Seattle truck with a working radio, and it rarely is changed from KEXP or KUOW radio stations. Fuso’s side gates are also built out of our favorite wide-plank lumber material, bleacher boards. These bleacher boards sport a patina that could only be created by decades of wiggling and giggling adololescents during their school assemblies and sports events.

Clutch, the truckClutch is a white 1989 Nissan pickup that was donated to our organization in 2002 with over 160,000 miles now.
Clutch is the scout for our Seattle field services and sees the most mileage of all of our trucks. This old friend previews between 1200 and 1500 jobs. Clutch doesn’t have a working radio, so Clutch hears a lot of Joel, our Seattle field manager, talking to himself. Clutch proudly wears the rack that lived formerly on our previous preview rig, Scout.
Before serving The RE Store, Clutch was used by our parent non-profit, RE Sources, for hauling recycling education materials to hundreds of Whatcom County school classrooms.

Visit our Field Services pages to get a free bid from our Pick-upSalvage Strip-Out, and Green Demolition “Deconstruction” Services

Check out this great examples of alternative transportation in the construction industry with local remodelers, A-1 Builders, in Bellingham, commuting to a major remodel job site via bicycle. Read the article on page 16 of American Bicyclist.

Posted in: Green business, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Things you never knew about The RE Store, Transforming the building industry, Why blog about The RE Store?

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Striking Salvage Gold in Own Backyard – Notes from the Field

by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew Member

Working on The RE Store’s field crew is a lot like digging for buried treasure. It’s a dirty, dusty, splintery business, and it’s often done at a fever pitch. While we travel to many exotic locales in our never-ending quest for architectural gold, there’s nothing better than striking it rich in our very own backyard.

This September, we unearthed a treasure trove of vertical grain Douglas fir tongue-and-groove flooring just blocks away from our Ballard store location. It was buried deep under a musty layer of avocado green shag carpeting. Thankfully, the previous owner saw past the luxurious fad of that deep pile rug and didn’t bother to tack it down. This single visionary action left the fir beneath it in as good-as-it-gets condition. Eternally thankful, we set to work with our trusty Burke bars in hand (top left in image above).

Unlike today’s wood flooring, which is typically installed with the benefit of pneumatic nail guns, this stuff was done ye old-fashioned way. Imagine if you will, a carpenter setting each nail in each board by hand with a hammer. Every time we pull up a floor of this vintage we give thanks that we weren’t the ones who had to install it. However, removing fir flooring is no picnic either.

Flooring of this type is nailed through the tongue when installed, and it must be removed by prying at each nail from the tongue side. Fir is a soft wood that often becomes brittle with age, so special care must be taken to avoid breaking the tongue upon removal. Take it from someone who knows, breaking the tongue renders the piece unusable again as flooring. Listening to the sound that the board makes during removal is actually one of the best indicators of whether or not it will come out intact. The more screeching nail sounds the better.

After listening to the soothing sounds of the fir floor, we moved on to unearth a number of other treasures from the Ballard house, including: cast iron pedestal sinks, divided light windows, cedar fence boards, and even some Volkswagen Beetle windshields. While our mission is to salvage reusable building materials, we’re always on the hunt for re-purposeable treasures to bring to you, the RE Store supporter. This time around, we managed to dig up pieces of Ballard, which we hope have found new homes by now. The VW windshields, however, are still available as of this writing; please inquire at The RE Store in Seattle for more information.

And remember to give us a call to schedule a free pick up from your renovation or project!  More info here

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

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