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Session 12: Green Buildings: Renovation, Repair & Deconstruction

Thursday, July 17, 1997
10:45 - 12:00 pm and 1:15 - 2:30 pm



Ms. Heikkinen stated that the purpose of this session was to discuss some of the environmentally preferable decisions associated with removing old buildings. Ms. Heikkinen oversees work on sustainable design and construction issues for EPA's EPP program.

Speaker 1: Mr. John Krakowiak, US EPA, Region 3

John Krakowiak is a branch chief in EPA's Region 3, which includes Washington DC, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. His duties include overseeing EPA facilities issues, including leasing office buildings.

Mr. Krakowiak explained that one of his duties as branch chief was to locate new office space for the Region 3 headquarters. This effort evolved into what became known as the GreenLease project, a project to ensure that environmental factors were considered when new office space was leased. The GreenLease project team focused on energy efficiency (Green LightsŪ and Energy StarŪ Buildings) and indoor air quality (ventilation and temperature/humidity control)

The project began with the creation of a Quality Action Team, which proposed 21 recommendations in six categories--energy efficiency, ergonomics, indoor air quality, wellness, telecommunications, and miscellaneous.

Since it is a leased facility, EPA couldn't do much to change the exterior of the building or improve it's energy efficiency. They could, however, begin by selecting an energy efficient building and ensuring that the remodeling that was required prior to occupancy incorporated energy efficient features, including EPA's Green Lights and Energy Star programs.

Indoor air quality was big concern. Many of the Quality Action Team recommendations focused on ventilation rates, temperature and humidity controls, and the elimination of indoor pollutants. EPA was particularly concerned with the HVAC system and ensuring that the remodeling effort made use of low-VOC carpets, paint, adhesives, caulks, etc.

EPA was concerned with these issues because the Agency regulates many of these concerns, and is their responsible for proving that it could be done. EPA also wanted to prevent pollution. They were looking to rent 265,000 square feet of space and wanted to minimize the environmental impact of doing so. It was also an opportunity to set an example for others within EPA and to share with GSA and other federal facilities.

This was a joint effort between EPA and GSA, who actually negotiates the leases on behalf of the federal government. GSA has a standard Solicitation for Offers (SFO), a 25-30 page document that announces the government's need to lease office space.

EPA created a 75 page rider to the standard "Solicitation for Space" form - SFO that addressed numerous categories:

The rider added the following requirements:

Companies interested in the EPP concept should consider:

The general architectural issues included concrete and related materials; structural steel and steel reinforcing; the use of endangered or restricted woods; the formaldehyde content in wood products; insulation; adhesives and sealants, and caulking. EPA also listed products as examples of environmentally preferable products and instructed the contractor to find better ones based on information provided by manufacturers, such as material safety data sheets.

The architectural finishes recommendations addressed gypsum wallboard and finish systems; resilient flooring; rubber base and stair tread/riser surfaces; natural sisal flooring; prohibiting the use of vinyl; clear finishes; special wall coating systems; and toilet and bath partitions and countertops containing recovered materials.

The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing recommendations focused on plumbing fixtures; HVAC design and performance standards; restricting CFC equipment; and using "green lights" fixtures and controls, including sensors to determine room occupancy.

The services, utility and maintenance concerns revolved around the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products and the use of indoor pesticides to control roaches.

The safety and environmental management concerns focused primarily on asbestos remediation plans, which would be necessary if EPA moved into an older building that contained asbestos.

As a result of investigations, EPA learned that there are a wide variety of environmentally preferable products available and that it is possible to verify recycled material content.

Mr. Krakowiak suggested:

Mr. Krakowiak concluded his presentation by offering to provide copies of EPA's SFO rider. Contact him at 215 566-5611 or 215 566-5221 (fax).

Speaker 2: Mr. Scott Lantz, Twin Cities Army Industrial Operations

Scott Lantz is a licensed engineer and attorney with the Twin Cities Army Industrial Operations. He managed a very large DOD Deconstruction effort in Minnesota.

The Twin Cities army base is/was a 4-square mile, small-caliber ammunition plant dating from World War II located in Minnesota. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the plant was shut down and later scheduled to be completely decommissioned. The site is on EPA's National Priorities List (NPL) which makes it a Superfund site.

As part of the base closure, Mr. Lantz was to oversee the demolition of several large timber frame buildings that were built during World War II. Typically, these types of buildings are demolished by simply tearing them down and hauling their remains to the local landfill. However, the quality of the timber used to construct the buildings convinced him that it would be worth saving, if it were economically viable to do so. Mr. Lantz contacted the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin and learned that there were markets for the old growth wood that had been used to construct the buildings.

Mr. Lantz estimated that the first two buildings to be demolished contained 1.2 and 1.8 million board feet of quality lumber, respectively. After comparing financial and environmental factors, he decided to deconstruct the buildings and salvage the wood rather than to demolish them.

He displayed an impressive slide show detailing the deconstruction process. Some of the problems that they encountered included an asbestos based roof and some water damaged wood. Mr. Lantz compared the process to arguing over an oreo cookie--everyone wants the good stuff in the middle, but isn't always willing to do what it takes to get there. The "good stuff" in the middle is the old growth timber, the "bad stuff" is the concrete, steel, and asbestos.

Mr. Lantz compared the pros and cons of deconstruction as follows:



Currently a limited pool of experienced dismantlers. Also, the recovered materials commodity market is not stable.

One of the other problems that Mr. Lantz discussed is that the recovered timber does not have a grade stamp. Before it could be sold, they had to hire a professional wood grader to come out and put his stamp on all of the wood.

Mr. Lantz showed pictures of some of the wood that was recovered. It included old growth Douglas fir beams that ranged from 2'x8' to 10'x18'. He referred to it as "logging the urban forest."

Speaker 3: Mr. Peter Yost, National Association of Homebuilders

Peter Yost is an Assistant Director for the Structures and Environmental Systems Division of the National Association of Home Builders. As a former remodeling contractor of seven years, he brings practical field experience in residential construction to complement his academic training in resource efficiency issues. Mr. Yost's work at the Research Center currently includes project management and demolition waste management studies. Recently, he has supervised a large scale deconstruction project in Baltimore, MD, in which several HUD buildings were decommissioned.

One such project is the Riverdale Deconstruction Project located in Baltimore County, MD, which just recently released a report, Deconstruction -- Building Disassembly and Material Salvage: The Riverdale Case Study. The 40-page case study is available by contacting the HomeBase Hotline at the NAHB Research Center at (800) 898-2842. It will also be available soon at http://www.smartgrowth.org/. Exit Disclaimer

The Riverdale Case Study is particularly important because it involved the deconstruction of a section of a public housing project. The Federal government has over 100,000 such buildings to dispose of in the next 10 to 15 years. This case study was an effort to determine if deconstruction is an economically viable alternative to traditional demolition. Deconstruction allows building materials to be resold and/or reused. Before deconstruction, a building inventory must be conducted to find out what is in the building and begin identifying markets for the materials that will be removed. Then the building is disassembled in the exact opposite order to the way it was assembled. Mr. Yost showed slides documenting the deconstruction process while discussing some of the project specifics and the results of the case study. He explained: the building being disassembled was a 2,000 square foot, four housing unit, residential building in an urban area of Baltimore County, MD.

Labor requirements: The research team documented how long it took to manually disassemble and salvage/recycle/dispose of 25 different building materials. Examples include: .038 hours per square foot of oak strip flooring; .54 hours per window; and .009 hours per square foot of plaster.

Labor activities: About half of the labor hours were spent disassembling the building. The other half of the labor hours were used to "process" the materials, including removing nails, sorting and stacking materials, and preparing them for resale.

Job Training Potential: Many of the people disassembling the building had never held a skilled labor position. Mr. Yost suggested that manual disassembly represents an excellent opportunity to identify and develop low-skilled workers who have an interest in the building trade. He stated that "the best way to learn how to build a building is to learn how to take one down."

Diversion rate: Approximately 70 percent by volume of all building materials were salvaged or recycled.

Salvage value: The items removed from the building have different market values. Commodities such as frame lumber have lots of uses and were easily sold for about 50 percent of new retail price. Other more finished products such as windows and cabinets have a much lower retail value and required more intensive and targeted marketing.

Total cost comparison: Standard demolition (without salvage and only limited recycling of metals, wood, and clean rubble) was estimated at $3.50 to $5.00 a square foot. The total cost for deconstruction (including maximum salvage and recycling) was estimated at $4.50 to $5.40 per square foot.

Environmental Benefits: The environmental benefits are difficult to quantify, according to Mr. Yost, but they should be a very important part of the equation. The benefits include decreased disturbance to the site, conserved landfill space, the energy saved by substituting reused building materials for new ones in future construction, and decreased air borne lead, asbestos, and dust around the job site.

Several interesting issues that had to be resolved during the deconstruction effort included: Lead and asbestos: There were some regulatory inconsistencies regarding lead and asbestos that were difficult to resolve. The U.S. EPA regulations for the disposal of lead and asbestos containing materials make no distinction between demolition and deconstruction.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations were also confusing surrounding the deconstruction of a building containing these materials. These issues will need to be resolved if deconstruction efforts are to continue.

Davis-Bacon wage requirements: There was originally some concern that the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that construction workers be paid wages predetermined by the U.S. Department of Labor, would make deconstruction prohibitively expensive. Luckily for the project, Mr. Yost explained, Davis-Bacon does not apply to deconstruction sites where no subsequent construction is planned. This drastically reduced the labor costs required to deconstruction the building and allowed the site to be a training opportunity for formerly unskilled laborers.

Workers compensation insurance: It was difficult to find affordable workers compensation insurance because insurance companies were not sure how to classify the workers. They had to prepare detailed descriptions of each workers' task to ensure fair and affordable rates.

Mr. Yost concluded his presentation with a brief list of recommendations for the deconstruction industry. They included:

Questions & Answers:

Q: Are there many demolition companies who offer building dismantlement?
A: (Scott Lantz) Though there aren't many companies offering building dismantlement, the number grows each year. Companies and consumers need to be educated on the benefits of building deconstruction for the field to grow.

Q: Why are the markets for used building materials so speculative?
A: (Yost and Lantz) Because they are new. It's just like other recycled commodities markets. Prices fluctuate and often depend on where you are located and what materials you have available.
A: (Lantz) I still have people calling me attempting to buy salvaged timber from the oldwood frame buildings. There seems to be an even bigger market for the stuff now.
A: (Yost) These markets are still new. You have to know someone who might be interested in the materials. For now, you have to aggressively pursue people to get rid of some of the recovered materials. Others like timber, as I mentioned earlier, are easier to sell.

Q: What about problems with asphalt shingles and asbestos?
A: (Yost) They should be less of a problem because they stopped producing the shingles in the 1970s. Most roofs only last 10-15 years, so a large majority of the problem should be behind us.

Ms. Heikkinen formally closed the session by reminding architects and contractors to specify and use salvaged materials in their next projects. Help close the loop. Use the old to make the new.

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