Getting Started

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 15:56
Daniel Salmon

Heading in a new direction has always been equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking for me. There’s the anticipation of reward and hope for a better future. But there’s also the sobering reality of leaving behind the familiar and stepping closer to the unknown. Becoming the Utah Regional Manager for The Reuse People of America is no different. I am excited to join an organization that provides an alternative to our ingrained methods of demolition and waste. “Smash and trash” gets the job done, but it isn’t the best answer for demolishing a building. Deconstruction is. But it also helps answer other problems like: job creation, low-income urban renewal, ecological degradation, and over-burdened landfills. Deconstructing a building – rather than demolishing it - puts more people to work, salvages useful building materials for sale to budget-minded consumers, reduces the need to mine, chop, or burn dwindling resources, and cuts about 80% of the normal waste from wrecking unwanted buildings. Its easy to see why I am thrilled to get the deconstruction “ball” rolling here in Utah.     

            I’m also nervous. Starting anything from the ground up, especially in a state with established ways of doing things, is no small task. Despite Utah’s pioneer heritage of resourcefulness and frugality, we routinely devalue the resources our buildings are made of when it comes times to remove them. Deconstruction is the only process that respects this embedded value, and adds value to the community. I think that’s something the Mormon pioneers would be proud of. But it takes more than adjusting values in an industry. Humans like routines; the familiar. A new process is both foreign and suspect. But, like the saying goes: a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet. We want to make “friends” with builders, contractors, architects, and demolition companies in Utah who recognize the value deconstruction adds to their clients, their community, and their globe.      

            I am meeting people each week who do recognize the advantages of unbuilding our structures versus destroying them. Relationships are growing with local organizations who can use the materials. Construction firms are curious about how deconstruction actually works. Homeowners want to know if the donation of salvaged materials can really make deconstruction cheaper in the long run. And city administrators wonder how they can grease the wheels to get more people on the deconstruction train. There’s a lot more work to do. But the only thing unknown about this work is when it will take off, not if. Thanks that knowledge, my nerves can take a break.

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