To reduce landfill waste, crew ‘deconstructs’ older homes


Houses can be torn down so that only seven per cent of the material goes to the dump

Barry Joneson, a big burly guy in overalls and a battered construction helmet with a Maple Leaf emblazoned on the back, stood in front of media microphones and cameras at 3865 West 15th on Monday offering an explanation of what 'deconstruction' means. Behind him was a 60-yearold house that his Pacific Labor crew is prising apart piece by piece-It's deconstruction and recycling -not demolition -Joneson told the crowd, which included Mayor Gregor Robertson and a couple of councillors.

Everything that can be saved -doors, windows, the fireplace mantel, oak flooring, tiles, beams, two-by-fours -is being removed.

But when Joneson spoke of the enterprise, there was as much about the reconstruction of human lives and saving people from the garbage heap as there was about saving 93 per cent of the fabric of this house from a similar fate.

For city hall, the deconstruction of this home will allow officials to see just how much demolition waste can be kept from the landfill, how much is reusable and perhaps lead to new regulations dealing with the disposition and recycling of buildings, said Robertson.

It is the second home in the city to be taken apart by Joneson, and Robertson said the pilot project exemplifies the city's commitment to making Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020.

'Salvaging, recycling and reusing home materials through deconstruction will help us meet 2020 zero waste targets,' said Robertson.

A third of all landfill waste comes from demolished houses, of which there are 750 each year in Vancouver, he said.

Only seven per cent of the material in the first deconstructed house went to the dump, the mayor said. Some of the saved material was sold, but most is being stored in a warehouse until Joneson finds a shop to market it.

The project is being financed by a $200,000 Service Canada grant to Pacific Community Resources Society, which provided Pacific Labor with 20 officially described 'inner city youth at risk' to handle the crowbars and learn a thing or two about working for a living.

One of the crew, 19-year-old Josh Moore, came to Langley from Ontario in September. He hasn’t finished school but an employment counsellor put him in touch with the program.

'It's a great opportunity for employment and to learn something,' said Moore. Joneson stepped right into the issue of social reconstruction when he was handed the mike. 'I've been trying to get to this place for a long time,' he said. 'It was really hard with different councils but we seemed to have brought it around this time.'

'My story? I'm one of the people from Skid Row. One of the ones that people would walk by with disgust. When my fouryear-old son died of a heart disease I couldn't take it so I ended up on Skid Row doing heroin for many years and when I got cleaned up in 1992 I decided to do something with my life,' he said.

'I see all these young kids that werenl making it, and adults that werenl making it, so I started a company.

'It was all about getting people that couldnt make it, people from recovery houses -people who had failed -and helping them.

'So that's what this journey's been all about,' he said.

The recycling of old homes could well be a template for a relationship between 'low threshold people' and business people, he said.

Then he went inside and with a few adroit twists of a wrecking bar, pulled the fireplace mantle off the wall as the cameras rolled.

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