Demolition days

It’s almost time to go kung fu on SN&R’s new building

Rodd Palon of Two Rivers Demolition.

Rodd Palon of Two Rivers Demolition.

Photo By Anne Stokes

I’m a little sad. Nothing’s going as planned.

You see, SN&R is renovating a building on Del Paso Boulevard, hoping to incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient measures. But we didn’t have loads of money for a green building, and eco-friendly measures tend to cost a bit more than conventional options. When the bids came back last month, we were $400,000 over budget. So we chopped away. No more concrete pathway in the parking lot. No more bamboo to shade the building and reduce our cooling load. No more recycled-glass countertops. At least, not for now. Oh well; it happens. We’re finally scheduled to break ground in September and move in March of next year.

All this talk about breaking ground makes me excited for demolition time, when we go all kung fu on the building! But hold up there, buddy. It doesn’t work that way! If the building purports to be green, deconstruction should be done properly to divert building materials from landfills and salvage these items for reuse. Why worry about deconstruction? I’m glad you asked! Twelve percent of California’s waste stream comes from construction and demolition debris, including wood, drywall, metal, insulation, glass, plastic and salvageable items such as doors, windows and plumbing fixtures (this percentage doesn’t include concrete and asphalt). The California Integrated Waste Management Board found that during construction booms, C&D waste approached 30 percent of landfill contents. But by recycling or deconstructing, we reutilize what we already have instead of wasting more raw materials.

SN&R will employ Rancho Cordova-based Two Rivers Demolition for our project, which I’m psyched about because the business is known in certain circles as forward-thinking. Company president Rodd Palon stopped by SN&R’s current office recently and banged on our walls to demonstrate a point: Did we have metal or wood studs? Metal. And metal studs, he said, should always be separated from the rest of the debris during deconstruction, making them a revenue-generating item. When left in waste, they become an expense.

“There’s no excuse to not pull out metal studs,” Palon said. Demolition companies have been pulling out steel for the last 50 years, and 68 percent of all steel products are recycled nationwide. Besides, current steel rates are at decade-high levels and expected to stay that way for a while.

“Steel is the lowest-hanging fruit there is. And concrete,” Palon said.

But outside of steel and concrete, not enough is being done to divert C&D waste from landfills, particularly in terms of green waste and wood, the latter of which comprises 43 percent of C&D composition in California landfills. Additionally, the guys at Two Rivers Demolition said occupants often leave perfectly reusable non-building materials behind when they move out—electrical equipment, furniture, dentist machines—and one time the company even found a half-dozen gynecologic exam tables. Two Rivers Demolition workers determine what items present value and find the highest and best reuse for those materials. SN&R’s structure has plenty of asbestos, but that’s no good. Meanwhile, the sheetrock has paint covering it, making the material less desirable. Electrical conduits and copper wires could be recycled, but all the copper has been stolen, which leaves us with duct work, acoustic tiles, storefront glass and some aluminum.

We’re not going to get rich off asset recovery. That’s fine. We just want to encourage more deconstruction of buildings and landfill diversion in the Sacramento region (I should mention that deconstruction is labor-intensive and companies typically charge more for this process than for demolition). Unfortunately, Sacramento doesn’t have the facilities needed to adequately separate C&D debris.

Our city should take a hint from San Jose’s system, a model that municipalities throughout North America are looking at to duplicate. Under this system, the building owner pays a deposit to the city upfront, then at the project’s completion shows receipts proving that building materials went to a certified C&D recycling facility.

“San Jose’s system is simple to understand and easy to implement,” Palon said. “It’s an economic-driven system and it’s been an amazing success.”

But we need the facilities. It’s one of those chicken-or-the-egg dilemmas. Fortunately, Palon thinks Sacramento is on the right track and will soon follow San Jose’s lead.

Guess I have a reason to be happy after all.