The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste was generated in 1996, which was the last time these figures were made available, and those numbers have most likely risen in the 15 years since.
The data shows that the majority of the waste came from demolition and renovation, while the rest came from new construction, with less than 30 percent of that waste salvaged for recycling. Today, architectural salvage, which in simplest terms is the reclamation or reuse of architectural materials, is gaining popularity in our more environmentally-conscious society.
“The advantage of this is that it’s generally better quality, a better price and has a lot more character than something newer,” says Stuart Grannen, the owner of Architectural Artifacts Inc., an architectural salvage company in Chicago, which boasts an 80,000-foot showroom. “Our focus has always been on pieces of intrigue, objects of a lost world, the aesthetic and the beautiful. It’s a lot more fun, and you can always feel good about the green part of it all.”
Remodeling with secondhand building materials has many fans. Some are owners of historic houses who improve their homes by adding period elements. Others follow green building practices and appreciate conserving resources and keeping materials out of landfills. And still others are looking for quirky elements that will break their homes out of cookie-cutter molds.
Materials used come from salvaged elements from buildings slated for demolition, including homes, churches and commercial properties and may range from aged barn wood flooring, furniture, doors, and marble fireplaces to claw foot tubs, ornate radiators and handcrafted decorative hardware.