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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Don't Throw That Wood Away!

I attended a seminar last year sponsored by the Regional Municipality of Ottawa Carleton on waste issues. The conclusion reached by the sponsors, using various data from Canadian studies, was that it was more cost effective to recycle building materials rather than dump them. The net economic benefit in many cases was to save the labor cost of the disposal and the dump fees. And careful planning of material orders will also reduce waste and will save money by reducing the cost of materials purchased for the project. And the greater good was to reduce the amount of material ending up at our dumpsites.

Few industries have as many "green" issues to worry about as the renovation business does. In the past, renovation has been a major contributor of waste to Canada's landfill sites. However, for many in the renovation industry, the road to becoming more environmentally friendly has begun.

To help renovating home owners respond to these concerns, the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association (OCHBA) has been working, with other organizations, to educate the renovation industry and home owners with the message that home renovations don't have to mean truck load after truck load of garbage to the local land fill site.

I think that local renovation contractors, and the local industry as a whole, are leading the country by responding to environmental issues voluntarily, rather than waiting for legislation before reacting. Renovators are seeking solutions to construction waste management, acknowledging that their industry contributes to the problem and therefore is responsible for addressing these issues.

Most renovations include some demolition and much of the removed material can be recycled. The quality of much of the old rough timber is really amazing. Old windows, sinks, cupboards and doors can be offered free to anyone who wants them. And people are usually happy to recycle. Studs and wood siding can often be recycled as strapping or blocking. In fact, our company warehouses heritage building materials and fixtures, many of which are hard to duplicate now. We save brick too - many of the specific types of brick we use for our heritage work are no longer available. We'll soon be setting up a page on our website to buy and sell vintage building materials.

A lot of construction waste can be eliminated simply with careful planning and ordering of materials. If we all spend a bit of extra time with our calculator to make sure we order exactly the right amount of material required, who knows - maybe we can even save a few trees!