Dan Oswald, instructor in the Deconstruction and Retrofit program at Iowa Central Community College (ICCC), has been training students for the deconstruction industry since ICCC received a grant to begin the program in 2010.
Two years into the program, Dan discusses the progress being made in instruction and in the industry in Iowa.
Q: What is “deconstruction”?
A: Deconstruction is defined as “the process of systematically removing a building or structure by taking it apart in the reverse order of construction (with a goal of maximizing reuse and recycling).”
The last part of that definition is worth taking a second look at: deconstruction’s goal is to “maximize reuse and recycling.” In other words, the goal is to keep as much of the deconstructed materials from going to the landfill. Many components—old-growth lumber, copper, and more—are valuable and can be reused in other ways.
Q: Is it possible to salvage many of the old materials?
A: That is both the opportunity and the challenge of deconstruction. Since I’m training building/construction professionals in this field, the question I get most often is, “I like the idea, but does it pay?” The short answer to that question is, yes it can … but it depends.
Until there is a more robust network of Iowans using the deconstructed materials, it is a little tricky to get rid of materials for a price that can ensure profitability. That doesn’t mean we should give up however; in fact, Iowa might be considered a perfect location for deconstruction projects.
Q: Why is Iowa a perfect location for deconstruction projects?
A: Nearly half of houses in Iowa are considered dilapidated. In addition, think about how many small town main streets have blocks of buildings that are vacant and falling down, or are still occupied but in poor repair? What about all the barns, hog houses, chicken houses, and other agriculture-related buildings on our farms? Many of these buildings were built between the late 1800s to the 1930s and 1940s and are in need of repair or replacement.