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More than Just Wood: The Many Faces of Reclaimed Building Materials - F'09 Newsletter

Mention reclaimed materials and the image pops: salvaged wood beautifully repurposed as paneling or flooring. While reclaimed wood is indeed one of the most popular reused materials, the range of materials sought and available extends far beyond that.
“Reclaimed wood is a classic, and it’s an idea most people are familiar with,” said PlanetReuse operations manager Tim Bensman. “But we’re seeing a growing market for steel, doors, access flooring, granite and marble. Steel, especially, offers huge potential for reuse, and along with that a huge potential for cost savings as well as a greater ability to achieve additional LEED material reuse credits.” The LEED MR system awards credit for reuse of a variety of reclaimed materials. PlanetReuse works with the design team early enough in the process to allow a huge list of options for consideration.
Ryerson University in Toronto has been studying steel reuse for a number of years, surveying designers, demolition contractors, salvage yards and steel fabricators to better understand the steel lifecycle. A 2006 report determined that construction steel reuse resulted in the reduction of between 3,000 and 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, a number that could grow dramatically with increased awareness.
Steel recycling has always been popular, especially in Europe. The UK-based Steel Construction Institute estimates recycling rates at 85 percent or higher. But reuse of steel components—which as the purest form of recycling provides the highest benefit to the environment—demands a bit more quality control.
To create those standards, PlanetReuse is working with prominent structural engineers around the country to establish fundamental testing principles. The company is actively sourcing reclaimed steel from deconstruction contractors, delivering a message of profitability for quality steel components.
They’re also talking to design principals around the globe, both to in regards to available inventory and insight on how to incorporate reclaimed materials. In recent years, architects designing shorter-term buildings (like venues for the 2012 Olympics in London) have suggested demountable venues that can be partially or completely removed and reused elsewhere.
“We’ve really just scratched the surface when it comes to the diversity of reclaimed materials,” said Bensman. “The easier the process becomes the more you’ll see materials of all types available for incorporation into new building projects. Whether that’s tons of steel, a dozen doors or a small slab of granite, the key is communication between those who need it and those who have it.”