Graduate Student Spotlight: Deconstruction and the Triple Bottom Line

Building costs in remote areas are always inflated by shipping costs. This is especially true for islands with finite space and resources. As a result, one organization in Hawaii has been working to reduce those costs while reducing pressure on landfills, natural resources and energy.

The organization, Re-Use Hawaii ,is a non-profit in Honolulu that specializes in reclaiming building materials for reuse or recycling. The model is simple:

warehouseRe-use Hawaii hires licensed contractors to “deconstruct” a property that would otherwise be demolished. Deconstruction services are more time consuming and sometimes more expensive, but payment for services is considered a tax-deductible donation.

Re-use Hawaii collects all salvageable materials and recycles or disposes of the rest. Those same salvaged materials are sold at a discount to the public.

The positive environmental and social impacts of Re-use Hawaii are significant:

1. Waste reduction–Landfill space is finite in Hawaii. By reselling building materials and recycling whenever possible, Re-use Hawaii is able to divert an enormous amount of waste (five million pounds, from their estimates) from municipal dumps.

2.  Jobs creation–Hawaii is dominated by seasonal tourism and therefore seasonal jobs. Deconstruction is labor intensive and requires many hands. It is also needed year round, which helps smooth otherwise cyclical hiring on the islands and provides stability for many locals.

3. Energy savings–By reselling used materials, greenhouse gas emissions are cut in two places: Production and shipping. Production of building materials requires an immense amount of raw materials, from wood to copper and aluminum. Shipping building to materials requires ocean transport, over thousands of miles. Re-use Hawaii saves energy in reducing the need for both.

deconstructionThere are several other organizations in the United States that offer similar services, like The Rebuilding Center in Portland and The ReUse People of America in 14 states across the country. While this space seems to be dominated by nonprofits, there are a few for-profit players like DeConstruction Services in Fairfax, VA, illustrating that deconstruction can be economically sustainable. As a substitute for traditional, ubiquitous demolition services, this model may be ideal for any entrepreneur looking to make social, environmental and economic impacts in their community.lauren russman

Lauren Russman is a second year MBA at Notre Dame. Her background isin Biology, which she studied at Wesleyan University. Lauren worked for five years in Honolulu as a naturalist at Bishop Museum’s Herbarium Pacificum. She decided to attend business school in order to build a solid skill set with which to promote environmental sustainability.

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