Saved from the landfill


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

On a hot and sunny afternoon, four workers are taking apart an older, three-bedroom home on Kahala Avenue piece by piece, starting with the rooftop.




Creative reuse

        “;Green”; calculations for the home taken down at 3927 Kahala Ave.:

» 22 trees saved


» 5,927 cubic feet of landfill use


» 54.5 million BUTs of energy (495 gallons of gas)


» 344.25 pounds of greenhouse gas


Source: Deconstruction Institute Benefit Calculator;


Instead of demolition, this home is undergoing deconstruction in order to salvage and reuse valuable building materials.

Among the items to be saved are aluminum roof shakes, lumber, vinyl windows, plumbing fixtures, kitchen cabinets, granite tiles, a hardwood oak floor, ceiling fans and light fixtures.

Reuse Hawaii, a Honolulu-based nonprofit, takes homes apart opposite the order in which they were built, from roof to foundation. The items are sorted as they are taken down, and the reusable parts go to a warehouse, where they are sold at a discount.

Recently, Reuse Hawaii expanded to a Kakaako warehouse near the medical school.

Quinn Vittum, co-founder and deconstruction program manager of Reuse Hawaii, estimates about 80 percent of the Kahala home will be diverted from the landfill.

That's equivalent to about 5,927 cubic feet of landfill use, according to calculations by the Deconstruction Institute, and 344.25 pounds less of greenhouse gas.

A core group of contractors and builders buy materials from Reuse Hawaii, he said, and the number is growing as going green gains momentum.

“;It's been fantastic,”; he said. “;We grew 30 percent faster than we anticipated.”;

Jeff Long of Long & Associates, hired Reuse Hawaii to take down the home. In its place, the architectural/development firm will build a contemporary, two-story home.

Long is pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the home, which will feature solar photovoltaic and hot water systems. It will go on the market in about a year.

The cost for the project is about the same as a demolition - Reuse Hawaii surveys the site and gives a cost estimate.

Besides homes, Reuse Hawaii also takes apart commercial structures. Past projects include a warehouse at Fort Shafter and the gym floor at Punahou School.

The Kahala home being taken apart was originally built in 1958, and remodeled in 1988. It was in good condition, with fairly new fixtures.

Long said while it will take two weeks for the whole process to be done, compared to a one-day demolition, the effort is worth the extra time.

“;It's almost a no-brainer,”; he said. “;This is like donating an organ. These are materials that someone else can use.”;

Old-growth redwood is hard to find nowadays, but is what most older homes in Hawaii were built with, and in high demand. Walking through the site, Long said he also could appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the old house.

The deconstruction process is also much cleaner than a demolition, said Long, and less noisy. Because Reuse Hawaii is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, using its services also can be considered a tax-deductible donation.

The company got its start through Selina Tarantino, formerly an interior decorator for Ferraro & Choi.

For years, Tarantino saw what happened when teardown homes in neighborhoods from Kaimuki to Kailua were demolished to make way for new construction. Most of it was going straight into the landfill, and there was no alternative.

“;What we don't realize is that construction demolition waste is 30 percent of the waste stream,”; she said. “;The big problem for an island community is that everything gets shipped in, so what about harvesting what's already here?”;

Tarantino found there were organizations like Reuse Hawaii that already existed on the mainland. She met Vittum, who ran a deconstruction company in Washington state, at a conference, and they teamed up to launch Reuse Hawaii about two years ago.

Today, the nonprofit has a crew of 12 to break down homes. Reuse Hawaii has made efforts to reach out to architects and builders, but most clients come through word of mouth.