Building Salvage in Minneapolis

resalvaged building materialsWhen the non-profit Green Institute’s ReUse Center closed in 2011, it was a loss for Minneapolis. The Institute provided both a building salvage center and deconstruction, operating out of East Phillips from 1995 to 2011. It focused on the reduction of construction and demolition debris.
The Institute closed due to financial difficulties. According to the Minneapolis report, “Green Building and Deconstruction Report” (March 2015),* the interim operations manager at the time cited the institute’s business model of deconstructing properties, rather than relying on direct donations, as a contributing factor in its closure.

UPDATE: Here is a great new website to help with local re-use options.

Building Material Salvage Centers

Better Futures Minnesota

Currently there are two building material salvage centers in the region.

  • Better Futures Minnesota is a non-profit group that employs chronically unemployed men, providing job training, mentorship, and steady employment. The homeowner receives tax credit equal to the appraised value of donated materials. For the typical 2,200 square foot home with no unusual abatement or site issues, it costs approximately $4,250 for Better Futures to deconstruct the home than it would to have it demolished, and the property owner will receive approximately a $4,500 tax credit.
  • Habitat for Humanity also operates two ReStores, in Minneapolis and New Brighton. The ReStore accepts tax-deductible donations of a wide variety of salvaged building materials. In addition to the two metro locations, Habitat for Humanity operates 13 other ReStore locations in Minnesota. Building material salvage centers sell recovered building materials — either removed from buildings being demolished, or discarded as scrap from new construction.

These retailers sell a variety of products including dimensional lumber, sheathing, masonry, and more.

In addition to physical salvage centers, many used building materials are sold online, on websites such as Craigslist, the Minnesota Materials Exchange, and K-Bid.

Architectural Salvage Retailers

Nine architectural salvage retailers are currently operating in Minneapolis. They typically sell high-quality fixtures, millwork, and architectural detailing in a retail or warehouse environment.
  • Accent Store Fixtures
  • Architectural Antiques
  • Art & Architecture
  • Bauer Brothers Salvage
  • Better Homes & Garbage
  • City Salvage
  • Gilded Salvage Antiques
  • Historic Stone Co
  • The Showcase Place

Wood Re-Use

Certain suppliers offer old-growth timber framing, siding, and flooring. Most buildings presently being demolished in Minneapolis do not contain old-growth lumber. These two Minneapolis-based suppliers tend to work with general contractors: Rhodes Hardwood, and Superior Woods.

Waste Diversion Services

Certain disposal companies offer construction and demolition diversion services — basically recycling of waste from developments — that meet B3,USGBC, and LEED standards of up to 75 percent diversion. They are also experienced in completing appropriate documentation to help projects achieve LEED and other certifications. Two with bases in Minneapolis: Atomic Recycling and SKB Inc.

* Minneapolis City Councilperson Linea Palmisano led an effort to examine the state of green building — to lead to greater incentives in the construction and demolition of residential development for one to four unit buildings. This information came from that report.

Southwest High School demolition

Reducing the Cost of Demolition

In 2014, the City of Minneapolis issued 184 wrecking permits, the vast majority of which were for single family homes. The demolition of a typical 2,000 square foot home generates approximately 127 tons of Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste. Nationally, C&D waste accounts for over 40 percent of waste by ton sent to landfills.

According to a City of Minneapolis report on house demolition in Minneapolis, “Green Building and Deconstruction Report” (March 2015):

In order to become a zero-waste city, or even to catch up with other U.S. cities exhibiting the highest recycling rates, Minneapolis must significantly reduce the amount of C&D waste that ends up in our region’s landfills.

Other than encouraging the continued use of existing structures, three primary ways to reduce C&D waste sent to landfills from demolitions exist:

  1. intensive/structural deconstruction,
  2. salvage/non-structural deconstruction,
  3. C&D waste diversion.
  • The research found that the largest factor preventing builders from incorporating green building strategies is real or perceived cost increase.
  • The second largest factor is lack of knowledge of green building.
  • Tax abatement, density bonuses, and expedited permitting appear to be the most prevalent and cost effective incentives nationwide.


39thVincentbuildThere are two types of deconstruction: intensive, and non-structural.

Intensive deconstruction is particularly labor intensive. Building materials must be removed in a methodical fashion, with a large crew, to prevent damage and ensure safety of workers. Deconstruction of a single-family home takes approximately 20 days,compared to 1-3 days for traditional demolition.

While the increase in time and labor required to deconstruct a home results in significantly higher cost, resale of recovered materials can potentially make up for this additional cost, depending on market factors.

Salvage, or non-structural deconstruction, involves the removal of those components of a home that are most easily reused or are of a particularly high value, including electrical and plumbing fixtures, pipes, doors, millwork, and hardwood floors.

In order to be salvageable, materials must be in good condition and there must be enough demand for used building materials retailers, architectural salvage companies, or antique stores to be able to sell the product. In some cases, considerations must be made to ensure that salvaged products meet current code requirements.

See more about Minneapolis salvage options here.

Deconstruction Facts

  • The typical 2,000 square foot home can contain up to 6,000 board-feet of reusable lumber.
  • SB sheathing and vinyl siding are more difficult to reuse than traditional wood siding or masonry.
  • Hardwood floors can be reused while carpet must be disposed of.
  • Distinctions between types of wood and masonry also exist, often based on the time and place where they were produced (e.g. Saint Louis brick is more valuable than most other types, and old-growth timbers are more valuable than modern dimensional lumber).
  • The only contractor currently conducting deconstructions in the region is a relatively new company and operates as a non-profit.

Waste Diversion

C&D waste diversion involves the recovery of recyclable materials from waste streams. Recyclable materials include metals (steel, iron, brass, copper, aluminum), aggregate (concrete, asphalt, brick, masonry), fiber (cardboard, paper), wood, shingles, and drywall.

Waste diversion is not as ideal as deconstruction, as significant energy is expended transporting and processing recycled and reused construction material. Typical diversion rates for projects seeking to recycle as much material as possible are between 70 and 75 percent and can reach as high as 90 percent.

What Other Cities Are Doing

Currently 128 local governments have mandates for diverting construction and demolition waste; all but ten of those are in California.

  • Seattle enacted an ordinance in 2012 requiring the recycling of 100 percent of all asphalt, brick, and concrete, as well as the reuse of 20 percent and recycling of 50 percent of all remaining C&D material. As of 2013, 66 percent of Seattle’s C&D waste was being diverted from landfills — a number expected to surpass 70 percent by full implementation target date in 2015.
  • Since 2006, the City of San Francisco has required that all C&D waste be sent to registered C&D disposal facilities, which are certified by the City to meet a minimum 65 percent diversion requirement. Waste haulers are prohibited from hauling C&D waste directly to landfills.
  • The City of Portland began mandating 50 percent recycling of C&D waste in 1995. In 2008, this standard was increased to 75 percent. Additionally, since 2009, all solid waste, regardless of project size, must be processed by a registered recycler prior to being sent to traditional disposal facilities.

What Can Minneapolis Do?

Few municipalities have enacted ordinances mandating the reuse of building material from structures undergoing demolition, primarily due to the lack of market for used building material.

As the report stated, “Our region is no exception — currently there is only one contractor performing structural deconstruction in our region, and there are few used building material retailers. While mandating intensive deconstruction and material reuse would have the greatest environmental impact, due to market conditions, it is not feasible for Minneapolis to do so under present conditions.”

The report recommended this approach: “The City of Minneapolis should further explore the possibility of creating a program mandating a certain percentage of C&D waste be diverted from landfill disposal… Staff believes that the regional C&D market is well-developed and could accommodate a diversion requirement similar to those adopted by many other cities, if the City took a phased approach. Taking cues from Seattle’s phased implementation, Minneapolis could develop a system that includes a rising bar to help further develop the C&D recycling market, as well as educate both builders and contractors.”

In addition: “Staff believes that the best way for Minneapolis to reduce the environmental impact of demolition in the long term is to become a regional leader in deconstruction in an attempt to develop the local deconstruction market.

“Intensive deconstruction and the reuse of building materials have the greatest effect on reducing the environmental impacts of demolition. However, the local market for used building materials is not well-established or prepared for the widespread adoption of intensive deconstruction. There is currently a lack of contractors performing deconstruction, a lack of accurate data available for cost analysis, and a lack of professional appraisal staff to evaluate materials, and traditional builders have yet to take steps to systematically incorporate used building materials on a large scale. Until a cost analysis for Minneapolis, and the region, can be completed, it is unknown what other factors may impact the success of a deconstruction program.

“To better understand and collect data on the feasibility of deconstruction, it is staff’s recommendation to work with experienced local contractors to increase the number of City-owned properties to be deconstructed rather than demolished. The City has contracted Better Futures Minnesota to deconstruct several city-owned homes in the past, and should continue to work with Better Futures Minnesota. However, many City-owned properties have not qualified as candidates for deconstruction due to deterioration, structural issues, and lack of salvageable materials. Until programs are established, the City can encourage other contractors to develop deconstruction capabilities and assist with data collection.”

Making Comparisons

According to The US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program:

  • There are 150 LEED-certified properties in Minneapolis, approximately 25 percent of Minnesota’s total.
  • Of Minneapolis’ 150 LEED projects, 74 fall into the building design and construction category and 18 fall into the homes category.
  • Of the 30 largest commercial office markets in the United States, Minneapolis-Saint Paul was found by CBRE in a 2014 study to have the highest LEED adoption rate, with 39.4% of all office space in the market being LEED-certified. San Francisco is at 39.2%; Chicago 31.8%.

Since 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has been providing certifications of energy efficiency to products across a variety of industries. According to the same 2014 CBRE report, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul commercial office market had the highest rate of Energy Star adoption, with 62.8% of all office space being Energy Star certified.

Minnesota also has its own standards — the B3 Program (Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond) — which studies building performance and develops standards and strategies for measuring and increasing performance of buildings receiving state funds. The B3 Guidelines (B3-MNBG) includes standards in energy and waste efficiency. To date, five projects in the City of Minneapolis have met these standards, approximately 12 percent of Minnesota’s total.

The Minnesota Greenstar program also is a certification program unique to Minnesota. It has provided training in green building strategies to professionals in Minnesota. The program’s focus has always been on sustainable renovations to existing homes. While Greenstar does not have the name recognition of LEED, its tailoring to local climate and construction makes it a leading certification program for residential remodels in the Upper Midwest.

Current Green Building Incentives

  • Installation of an intensive, semi-intensive, modular, or integrated green roof system.
  • Significant renovation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of an existing building(s), rather than demolition.
  • Permanent and viable growing space and/or facilities such as a greenhouse or a garden conservatory.
  • Use of a photovoltaic or wind electrical system, solar thermal system, and/or geothermal heating and cooling system for at least seven (7) percent of the annual energy costs in new and existing buildings.
  • Public access to shared bicycles available for short-term use.
  • Access to a share passenger automobile available for short-term use.
  • Provide capacity for infiltrating stormwater generated onsite with artful rain garden design.
  • Provide and easily accessible area that serves the entire building and is dedicated to the collection and storage of non-hazardous materials for recycling, including but not limited to paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics and metals.

Residential Building Requirements

All new homes (1-4 units) in Minneapolis must achieve a minimum of 17 of 27 available points in the residential point system. In addition to design points for City goals above, points also are available for two environmental features: meeting Minneapolis’ stormwater quality credit program, and locating a healthy number of trees on the site.

DID YOU KNOW: Minneapolis currently promotes the use of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and retention ponds, by waiving either 50 percent or 100 percent of a property’s monthly stormwater charge, depending on the impact of the BMP. To qualify for such programs, an application must be completed and approved by City staff.

Green Homes North is a CPED program, started in 2012, that is providing funding for the construction of 100 single-family homes on vacant CPED-owned lots in North Minneapolis. All homes built as part of the program must meet either the Minnesota Green Communities Standards or LEED for Home. Through 2014, 47 homes have been completed.

Ideas for Incentivization

The report looked at the programs implemented in other cities, to consider options that might be useful in Minneapolis. One idea for possible implementation:

  • Density bonuses are popular already, but could be enhanced — such as including up to a 20 percent increase in maximum permitted GFA, increases in maximum permitted height, reductions in required yards, and up to a 20 percent increase in maximum permitted dwelling units.

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