Over the past two months, Forrest Laiche, owner of Lane County-based Conscious Craft Construction, has been steadily deconstructing a dilapidated Cottage Grove farmhouse owned by Lane County near the Cottage Grove Transfer Station.
Nail by nail, Laiche’s crew have worked to rescue as much as possible from the structure as part of a pilot project to divert deconstruction materials from landfill to reuse.
Laiche’s company was one of a handful that became aware of the project after enrolling in a building deconstruction training sponsored by Waste Wise Lane County in April.
The course was taught by Dave Bennink, owner of Bellingham, Wash.-based RE-USE Consulting and the director of the Building Deconstruction Institute. Bennink is considered an industry pioneer after starting his consulting firm in 1993 when deconstruction (as opposed to demolition) was a little-known concept.
Soon after taking the free, 16-hour training, Conscious Craft won the county contract to sustainably deconstruct the historic property with a challenge to salvage as many materials as possible.
While the process has had its unforeseen pitfalls, Laiche said it’s been worth it from financial and environmental sustainability standpoints.
“This was a learning experience,” Laiche said. “We’ve gotten a lot of stuff out of here.”
Laiche said this includes a whopping 36,000 pounds of salvaged lumber.
Laiche provided a spreadsheet detailing some of the salvaged materials. Much of it was donated to local nonprofits, including BRING. BRING accepts reclaimed materials sold to the public at a discounted price. Other materials recovered include:
• Fir flooring, 2x4s, OSB plywood, and shiplap siding
• Piping, metal wiring, and metal roofing
• A water heater, a toilet, and ceramic pots
Laiche also discovered historical artifacts, including personal letters and old bottles found in the wall. He plans to contact the Lane County History Museum about these items.
“Each house is unique,” said Laiche, who started his company in 2012. “I was glad to be able to do the project, and I was glad to be able to get the (amount of reusable) wood (we did).”
This effort to promote and realize sustainable deconstruction practices was a long-held goal for Lane County Waste Management, said Waste Reduction Program Supervisor Angie Marzano.
“Too often, buildings are torn down, and we wanted to tell the story about preservation and the continued use of historic materials, but also document costs and the environmental benefits,” Marzano said. “As resources become scarcer, these practices will become more valuable.”
The industry could certainly be more sustainable. For example, 600 million tons of construction and demolition debris were generated in the United States in 2018 alone. Construction and demolition waste account for one-third of materials sent to the county landfill.
See photos of the project at lanecountyor.gov/deconstruction.
Daniel Hiestand is the Waste Reduction Outreach Coordinator for WasteWise Lane County and a columnist for The Chronicle.