CASPER, Wyo. — Dave Bennink wants to break your building down.
He’d like to tear out the sheet rock and remove the cabinets. He might take the floor, too.
For two decades, Bennink has been trying to change how people get rid of buildings. Most old structures are simply torn down; their guts dumped into a landfill. He advocates deconstructing buildings piece by piece, salvaging as much material as possible.
“So by the time you save everything that is reuseable and recycle all of the other stuff, only 10 to 15 percent goes in the landfill,” he said.
In September, Bennink will be teaching a course on deconstruction at Casper College. But first, he needs a building for his students to practice their new skills.
The Bellingham, Wash., consultant is hoping someone in the Casper area has a building they want torn down. He doesn’t need a big house. A garage or barn will work. He’d even settle for an office in need of a remodel.
Instead of simply demolishing the structure, his students will deconstruct it.
“In doing so, we generate material that is reusable,” he said. “So we are not going to take it down and just throw it away. We are going to take it down and give it away.”
The work won’t cost the building’s owner anything.
Much of the material that makes up a typical house can be recycled or reused. Kitchen cabinets and doors can be removed and installed in new buildings. Wood beams can be cut and used as flooring.
Even asphalt shingles and carpet pads can find new life in another structure.
“It is worth the trouble of processing it,” Bennink said.
Besides keeping trash out of landfills, deconstructing buildings also provides affordable building materials.
The vast majority of today’s buildings are demolished rather than deconstructed. Demolition is generally quicker and requires less labor, translating to lower costs.
But interest in deconstruction is growing because it’s better for the environment and creates more jobs, advocates say. The industry is also trying to become more economically competitive with traditional demolition.
Casper College is offering the two-week deconstruction class through a grant that promotes training for green construction and sustainable energy installation, said Sarah Olson, a workforce training specialist with the college’s Center for Training and Development.
In the future, waste management codes are expected to require contractors to recycle a larger percentage of materials from buildings that are torn down, Olson said. Workers and business owners who receive the training will have a head start when the change happens.
“We want people to be ahead of the game and to have those skills,” she said.