Environmental considerations drive an expanding interest in reusing
building materials in old (and new) house designs
Written by JILL CONNORS
although the world of green
building and renovation brings another innovation every day, there is
an eco-conscious path that remains quite old-fashioned: reusing architectural elements and
salvaging building materials.
Architectural salvage came into vogue more
than 25 years ago — as old-house enthusiasts began renovating their dream homes and looking
for such soul-satisfying architectural elements
as Victorian-era marble mantels, antique heart-of-pine floorboards, or intricately embellished
brass doorknobs. But today salvage is enjoying
a renaissance for a very different reason — the
green building boom.
A fast-growing branch of salvage is deconstruction. Defined as the careful dismantling of
a structure so the maximum amount of material
can be recovered for reuse, deconstruction differs from selective demolition or architectural
salvage in the scope of the material that is saved.
Whereas architectural salvage typically concerns
itself with valuable antique architectural elements, deconstruction saves and reuses ordinary
bits and pieces from relatively new houses: red-
PHO TO B Y ERIC RO TH; RES TORE PHO TO B Y DAN WESSMAN
oak strip flooring from a 1950s house, for example, or maple cabinetry from a 1990s house.
“We’ve seen an explosion in interest in our
deconstruction service,” says John Grossman,
manager of ReStore, an enterprise of the Center
for Ecological Technology, a 30-year-old Pittsfield, Massachusetts, nonprofit whose stated mission is “to research, develop, demonstrate, and
promote those technologies that have the least
destructive impact on the natural ecology of the
earth.” The ReStore warehouse, located in a former garage and factory in an industrial section
of Springfield, Massachusetts, has been a source
of used and surplus home products since 2001;
its deconstruction service began in 2007.
Grossman explains that there are two types
of deconstruction: soft-strip and whole-house.
In a soft-strip deconstruction, the ReStore crew
will not touch the shell of the house, but instead
a reclaimed (above) circa 1840 fireplace
surround graces Gayle and Roger Mandle's South
Dartmouth, Massachusetts, farmhouse of the
same vintage. A salvaged garden bench serves as
a coffee table. Posts and columns (right) at
ReStore in Springfield, Massachusetts.
1946 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02118
Old House Parts
1 Trackside Drive
Kennebunk, ME 04043
Architectural Salvage Warehouse
11 Maple St., Five Corners
Essex Junction, VT 05452
Nor’east Architectural Antiques
16 Exeter Road
South Hampton, NH 03827
White River Junction, VT 05001
250 Albany St.
Springfield, MA 01105
Habitat for Humanity
This national nonprofit is beginning
to offer deconstruction services; check
with your local affiliate.