Deconstruction

March 12, 1999

By Michael Jessen

'Build it and they will come' is a renowned line from the Kevin Costner movie "Field of Dreams." 'Tear it down and we will come' is the line Corinne Fulton is making famous.

Fulton is general manager of Litchfield & Co. Ltd., a leader in the emerging business of deconstruction.

'Deconstruction?' you ask. Is that something like 'construction?' Well, actually it is the exact opposite. Deconstruction is defined as dismantling a building or structure in a manner that achieves safe removal and disposal of hazardous materials and maximum salvage and recycling.

Litchfield, with more than 20 years experience, is a specialist in the field of deconstruction. The Port Coquitlam demolition and recycling company operates a three-acre used building materials yard. Fulton also manages an antique store called The Sweet Apple which showcases antiques and collectibles saved from various Litchfield deconstruction projects.

In addition to sheltering antiquated "treasures", almost every material used in the construction of the Sweet Apple came from Litchfield's salvage yard. For example, the floor was once a school gym, the plywood was recycled from the Pacific National Exhibition Show Mart and Food Mart buildings, the decorative windows came from the Langara golf clubhouse, and the etched door glass came from the movie "Deep Impact".

The company's used building materials are now available to clients around the world through the Internet at .

Litchfield used materials are also available for rent or purchase by the movie industry and items can be shipped to any movie and film set anywhere in the world.

Fulton, who has been a guest speaker on deconstruction at colleges, universities, and associations around the world, is bullish on the wealth of benefits provided by deconstruction.

"It creates jobs, diverts material from landfills, creates high quality building materials, preserves natural resources, and saves energy," says Fulton.

"The world is recognizing the true value of things," she adds. "It is much better to save stuff than send it to the landfill."

Fulton says Litchfield customers love the idea of reusing materials. "They appreciate the good wood, which is often old growth lumber of superior grain, quality and size. Quality -- that's what people want -- quality of life. Recycling gives people that good feeling."

Ron Driedger, Director of the Pollution and Remediation Branch of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, was one of the speakers at the first Demolition Materials Diversion Symposium held last May in New Westminster. The symposium attracted over 70 people and heard Driedger declare: "We want deconstruction to be the norm and demolition to be the special case."

According to Fulton, carefully planned deconstruction projects can reduce the amount of material sent to the landfill by 80%. (It is estimated that one third of all the waste generated in the Greater Vancouver Regional District comes from the construction and demolition industries.)

Bevin Hodgins, a consultant with Dale's Salvage in Victoria, told the symposium deconstruction projects can be "little mines" with enough revenue in the salvage of one house to offset between 200 and 300 man hours of work.

The symposium also identified a number of barriers to deconstruction including: a lack of awareness of the potential economic, environmental, and social benefits of deconstruction; the BC Building Code which doesn't allow the use of many salvageable materials in new construction; inconsistently or poorly enforced regulations governing the handling and management of hazardous materials; a lack of consideration in the permitting and development process for the time required to deconstruct.

Fulton believes deconstruction is the way of the future, but some incentives such as partial rebates on property taxes for a limited period and elimination of the provincial sales tax on used building materials would be helpful. These ideas will undoubtedly be discussed at the next deconstruction symposium to be held in Vancouver on April 26. Other symposia are tentatively scheduled for later in the year in Kelowna and Prince George.

Fulton says her company acts like a "big blue box" by recycling building materials, metal, concrete, drywall, asphalt, and styrofoam insulation. "One day of salvaged demolition waste can equal a lifetime of residential blue box recycling," concludes Fulton.

TRASH TIP - Thomas Mueller, the GVRD's Construction/Demolition Recycling Advisor, estimates 80% of demolitions are residential and less than half of the residential sites include any level of salvage.


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