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Do we already have it? Reusing construction materials!

Welcome to Episode 3 of our “Building a Low Impact Grocery Store” blog series! ICYMI – we’re almost done construction of Nada and have learned a lot about how to build and renovate with as little impact as we know how. Last week, we shared our overall construction decision process, which basically consisted of seven questions:

  1. Do we need it? Are we sure we need it?
  2. Do we already have it?
  3. Is someone giving it away?
  4. Can we purchase it second-hand?
  5. What about pre-loved? Or reclaimed?
  6. OK, are we sure we’ve exhausted all of our options for finding it second-hand?
  7. OK fine, fine, fine. If we really have to buy it new, what can we do to make this the best purchase possible?

Today, we’re on question two – imagining ways we can use what we already have!

Do we already have it?

We’re big fans of making use of what we already have before we consider buying anything new. It’s a philosophy that has served us well in so many situations – from the clothes we wear (Do I need a new dress for an upcoming event, or can I repurpose one that I already own? ) to the food we eat (Is there anything currently in my fridge that can inspire my next meal? ). But would it be compatible with the construction process?

A huge win for us came from the materials salvaged from the deconstruction process. The first step in our build out was deconstruction – tearing down walls that had previously been in the space, which consist of steel studs, insulation, and drywall. The next step in the build out was construction – putting up new walls, which consist of steel studs, insulation, and drywall. Can you see where I’m going with this? Even though the old walls were entirely unsuited to our new plans, they contained a lot of resources which could be used as building blocks for our new construction.

 

All of this material was recovered from the deconstruction process.

It seems simple, but unfortunately reusing (and recycling) old materials isn’t always part of the construction status quo. So once again, we are so grateful to have found likeminded partners who taught us the what’s what of the construction industry and helped make best use of all of that material!

Our contracting team: Naturally Crafted

One of the superheroes in this story is our contracting team from Naturally Crafted – a sustainable contracting company focused on energy efficient and healthy buildings. General Contractor Adam Corneil and Project Manager Shaun St-Amour are both experts in sustainable building methods. They ensure that materials are separated in the deconstruction process so that they can be reused, and are conscious to use reclaimed materials in their build-outs.

Our contracting team – Adam Corneil & Shaun St-Amour!

 

We love this quote from Adam, who was recently featured in a CTV article about his work with UnBuilders – the sister company of Naturally Crafted: At the end of the day there’s always a place for these materials, and it’s not the transfer station.

Going back to Nada, here’s a little highlight reel of what happened to those materials. The insulation and steel studs were all separated and set aside so that they could be used again during construction!

Check out those studs! From the old walls … to the new!

The drywall was broken down and separated by colour (whites and others – just like our laundry!) which makes them easier to recycle. Then we partnered with the team at who crated all of the drywall out to the recycling station, rather than landfill!

And the drywall… before… separating it and carting it off… and finally off to the recycling station!

We should note that one of the biggest barriers to separating and reusing materials in the deconstruction process is cost – separating these materials takes more time than simply demolishing them, which translates to higher labour costs for construction companies.

As the profile on Adam and Unbuilders explains, for residential builds, there are major tax credits in place that can often make the overall cost of this process more affordable in the long-run than demolition. In our case, we were able to mitigate some of the labour costs by separating materials ourselves. We had a number of demolition parties in February where we got together with a team of amazing volunteers who were all passionate about keeping these materials out of landfill.

It may not yet be status quo, but reusing materials from the construction process makes a whole lot of sense, and is becoming more accessible, and more affordable from the efforts of values-driven companies such as Naturally Crafted.