Every time I see a house torn down, I shake my head at the waste it represents. So much work and resources put into the construction, for such a short life span. This is why the blossoming of the deconstruction industry is such a joy to witness.
Deconstruction is the process of unbuilding, taking a home or business building apart a piece at a time and reclaiming every bit of useful material possible. According to the Deconstruction Institute, the average 2,000 CF home produces 10,000 cubic feet of debris if demolished, which costs over $3,000 in landfill charges alone. Deconstruction could cut this by 80%.
Instead, deconstruction could recover from that same house 6,000 board feet of lumber, the equivalent of 33 trees, as well as 4,700 pounds of steel and 770 pounds of plastic. Recent crime reports also demonstrate the value of the copper in a house, and the aluminum in siding, etc.
Beyond raw materials, there is also a booming market in architectural salvage. A friend of mine is looking for a mantle, and I was amazed to find several for sale at a local antique shop. Habitat for Humanity operates a number of ReStores, where salvaged cabinets and other household construction bits and pieces canalso find a second home instead of ending up in the dump.
Before you pick up a crowbar and go postal on your own home, though, you should be aware that deconstruction has its own hazards and restrictions. Asbestos and lead paint are two primary villains, which is why most cities treat deconstruction under demolition rules, requiring an engineering plan, abatement plan, site plan, all with the goal of protecting the safety of the workers and the surrounding community.
If I were looking to start a business, I'd look very hard at deconstruction. Where else could I do good, make money, and enjoy the primal thrill of busting stuff apart?