"A penny saved is a penny earned," wrote Ben Franklin. We care about reusing building materials because of the energy and resources they represent. It takes energy to down-cycle them into recycled-content materials (think of old concrete from a building ground into three-quarter-inch aggregate for use in concrete or as the base material for a parking lot or roadway), so why not use them in their original form instead of throwing them away or using them in some devalued form?
LEED recognizes the value of salvaged or reclaimed materials, such as decorative brick, heavy timbers and other framing lumber, doors, mill-work, furniture and partitions, by rewarding projects that use them for at least 5% of the total value of all building materials (not counting equipment). On a typical $10 million (construction cost) project, this would represent $225,000 worth of such materials, not an insignificant amount. One benefit of this practice is the development of local enterprises based on deconstructing buildings and salvaging such materials. If you consider how much useful material is saved from old cars by auto salvage yards in every town, you'll see the benefit of this practice.
With the advent of Web-based auction sites such as eBay and retail/ wholesale reclaimed building materials stores in most large metropolitan
areas, there is now a nationwide market in reclaimed building materials for building projects. So, there is no longer an excuse for not being able to find materials. The only issue is their quality and availability, along with transportation and storage costs.
Some creativity might be required to find and reclaim salvaged materials. The first LEED Platinum project, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation building in Annapolis, Maryland, used large wooden tanks from a former pickle manufacturing facility to harvest rainwater from the roof of their new building. The three tall pickle barrels create a strong visual and architectural element at the building entrance.
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