ASPEN — A multimillion-dollar tear-down house east of Aspen is escaping the fate of most of the McMansions that get demolished in Pitkin County.
Scott Gilbert, left, president of Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork, and Mark McDaniel, of Colorado Deconstruction Inc., check the interior of a home east of Aspen that has been meticulously deconstructed to salvage as much of the material for reuse as possible.
Instead of hiring a bulldozer to level the structure, the owners of the house near the Wildwood school hired a “deconstruction” firm that aims to salvage between 50 and 80 percent of the structure. Appliances such as a top-notch kitchen range and materials such as mahogany flooring were donated by the deconstruction company to Habitat for Humanity’s Roaring Fork chapter. The salvaged materials are being sold at Habitat’s ReStore or directly from the house, said Habitat chapter President Scott Gilbert.
The house owners, who didn’t want to be identified, hired The ReUse People, a California-based nonprofit organization co-founded by Ted Reiff in fall 1993. His company has worked extensively on the West Coast, the Chicago area and recently branched into Colorado. The ReUse People have deconstructed two houses in the Eagle Valley and one in Boulder. This is their first job in Pitkin County.
Gilbert sees big potential in the Aspen and Vail areas because homes with lots of usable materials are regularly scrapped when the property changes hands.
The ReUse People mine building materials and appliances from homeowners who reap tax benefits for their donations. ReUse then sells the materials at discounted prices to people who are pinching their pennies. It either sells the materials itself or works with an organization like Habitat for Humanity.
“That is true economic development,” Reiff said of the model of getting materials reused in other construction and remodeling projects. “I kind of relate us to Robin Hood, except we don’t steal.”
Builders who separate out wood receive credit in the Aspen and Pitkin County land-use processes, plus they pay less in tip fees at the dump. However, deconstruction takes the process a step farther because the materials are carefully handled to enhance the salvage potential.
Final figures for salvage potential aren’t available yet for the Wildwood job outside of Aspen. In Boulder, the owners of a 5,800-square-foot house hired The ReUse People to deconstruct the structure and donated the materials. Their appraised donation value was $232,000, according to materials provided by The ReUse People.
Reiff said the concept works because it makes economic sense. The fee that a property owner pays his firm is more than offset by the tax benefit granted by the federal government for donating the materials.
The salvage of tear-down structures isn’t more widespread because owners aren’t aware of it and contractors often fear it will take too much time and throw them off schedule. Reiff said his company, or the certified contractors The ReUse People often hire, can typically finish a job in less than six weeks.
He believes the idea will catch on as the desire increases to be environmentally friendly and because the finances make sense.
“No contractor in their right mind, or even in their wrong mind, wants to throw stuff away. It’s just stupid,” Reiff said.
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