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?