Building materials take on second life

Recycling business offers tax breaks, environmental benefits

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A prime 10-acre lot off Anglers Drive soon will be free of an outdated 1980s-era home.

But unlike most demolitions, this project is no disappearing act: There are no bulldozers to topple walls or dump trucks to haul debris to the landfill.

Instead, a crew of several men is dismantling the home piece by piece -- from fixtures and windows to beams and trusses -- so that the materials can find fresh life in new and remodeled homes.

"You name it, it's coming out," said David Epstein as he walked around redwood molding and trim carefully piled in the home.

Epstein has helped coordinate Home ReSource, a nonprofit retail outlet in Oak Creek that accepts reusable building materials that are resold to builders and homeowners looking to save money and help the environment.

The organization will take salvaged materials in good shape from contractors or will deconstruct structures. The project off Anglers Drive is the second full deconstruction project the organization has tackled since its inception late last summer.

"We really see it as our first opportunity to demonstrate the viability of this," said Brett KenCairn, a partner in Home ReSource and a principal in Neighborhood Builders, an environmentally minded construction company.

He already incorporated doors, light fixtures, solar panels and a wood stove from the home in a set of new straw-bale homes in Oak Creek. Cabinets, molding, bathroom vanities and molding have been sold for other projects.

Home ReSource resells the materials for no more than 50 percent of retail value. KenCairn estimated he saved $500 to $700 on doors alone.

"We can cut our costs by 50 to 70 percent on some of these materials," he said. "In houses where budgets are very, very tight, it's an important savings."

Michael Osterman plans to replace the older home with a "green" energy efficient home with mostly recycled, nontoxic building materials.

"That starts with not putting stuff in the landfills that doesn't need to be there," he said.

Osterman used the same deconstruction process on his primary home in Boulder, utilizing services of ReSource2000, the model organization for Home ReSource.

Deconstruction costs more than demolition, but many of those expenses are recouped by tax deductions.

Home ReSource will inventory salvaged materials, which are appraised independently. Materials estimated at less than $5,000 do not need a third-party valuation.

With his tax deduction, Osterman said he at least broke even with deconstruction of his Boulder project and expects the same with his Steamboat Springs home.

"If I sat down and looked at just the numbers and compared the tax deduction to costs, I'd probably come out even or come out ahead," he said.

Deconstruction obviously takes longer than demolition -- about two to three weeks compared with two to three days -- but that's not a problem if you plan the project well, Osterman said.

Steamboat Springs architect Joe Patrick Robbins is designing Osterman's new home and helped connect his client with Home ReSource.

Since starting his business in the 1970s, Robbins has educated clients about building techniques, materials and technologies that help save money and the environment.

"We have always been aware of that, even in our fancy homes," he said.

Robbins expects Home ReSource will become a more relevant alternative to builders and homeowners as empty lots become scarcer in Steamboat Springs.

"I think there is a wonderful potential for this," he said. "As we begin to run out of viable lots, we're seeing more tendency to buy existing homes with great locations. These houses will need to be removed or remodeled."

Epstein said he has received a positive response from officials involved in the redevelopment plan for the base of the ski area. When building starts, he hopes to secure a staging area where contractors could drop off salvaged materials.

In addition to tax benefits, builders and contractors who salvage materials also save landfill fees.

Doug Bell, manager of the Twin Enviro Services landfill near Milner, said about 15 to 20 percent of waste brought to the landfill during the summer is from construction sites.

Contractors pay $8 a cubic yard to dump the trash.

Epstein also is working with the landfill to establish a staging area where willing builders could drop off reusable materials.

"We do hope to work with Dave and provide an area to do that and create a clearing house for larger items," Bell said.

Ultimately, Epstein hopes the city of Steamboat Springs will implement an incentive-based plan for builders who use recycle materials. The plan would be patterned after policies in Boulder, Telluride and Aspen that reward builders with "green points" applied toward tax bills.

Buyers of recycled building materials receive more than financial benefits.

In some cases, they may find rare, period-specific pieces such as antique claw-foot tubs and sinks, or rare old-growth wood salvaged from historic homes.

They also may find unique pieces that, although ugly in dated homes, provide a touch of creativity to a new project, said KenCairn, who recently acquired a maroon bathtub that he plans to dress up with various colored tiles and wood trim.

"We're creating a new style in a way, by reinventing how these older styles are used," he said.

The organization plans to open an architectural salvage store on Main Street in Oak Creek this spring. Until then, buyers can purchase items from Home ReSource by appointment.

Home ReSource will accept most building materials in good condition -- including mirrors, tiles and stone -- and some newer appliances.

For more information about donating or purchasing items, call Epstein at 736-1144.

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