My last blog I wrote about how obsessed I am with recycling. But recycling is just the final step of a larger process:
Reduce [minimize the quantity/types of products you consume, thus the amount of waste you generate]
Reuse [find other uses for it before placing it in the trash or recycle bin]
Recycle [send it off to be turned into something new].
In the real estate industry, reducing would incorporate building with sustainable and recyclable products, where possible. It would also involve reducing the amount of material by decreasing the size of the house. Taking this to an extreme, think about the trend towards tiny houses.
After a house is built, whether a tiny house or a ten room mansion, when the owner no longer wants it, that is when we step in. As a real estate company we facilitate the reuse phase of a house's life cycle. We find homes new, loving owners.
In a throwaway society, imagine if houses were only used once, by one owner, and then gotten rid of! Think of all the materials that went into building the house that would be wasted. For well built and well maintained houses they can remain in the reuse phase for a hundred years or longer, passing through the hands of many owners.
Recycling homes generally doesn't occur until it is at the end of its usefulness. Unlike the recycling we place by our curb (plastics, metal, glass and papers) a house is not made of a single material. It is a complex intertwining and layering of different materials, some of which are recyclable and other that are not. Here is a list of some of the common items that can be extracted and recycled from a house:
Architectural Salvage: Doors, windows, millwork and fixtures in old homes have found a market with architects, builders and homeowners looking for unique additions when remodeling. When made with good materials, these items often outlive new items.
Roofing: sheathing, terracotta, slate and cedar tiles can be reused. Asphalt shingles can be ground and recycled.
Brick: can be crushed and reused, or, if the condition is good enough, it can be reused whole.
Wood: often the most valuable asset in the older homes due to the prevalence of old-growth timbers. Much of the wood can be reused or repurposed.
Metal: Can be melted down and reformed as other metal products. Recycle or sell metals at scrap yards.
Concrete: Makes up much of the weight of a house. It can be crushed and recycled.
So, next time you enter your home, or are looking for a new home, remember that a house is a living, breathing structure that can take care of you for a lifetime, as long as you take care of it!