116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Workers are salvaging wood that can be re-used or burned. Concrete and metal are also being diverted from the landfill.
Michael Richards, community activist based in the New Bohemia area of Cedar Rapids, wrote this response to the city's pilot project:
Recently, the Cedar Rapids City Government announced the demolition/material extraction of 3 houses as a test project to measure the feasibility of using building materials from flooded homes to incinerate for energy production. High-temperature disposal technologies are actually very problematic (they're called waste-to-energy, gasification, pyrolysis, plasma-arc and a few other things, -but they're really just glorified incineration). Proponents of these energy inefficient methods are roaming the globe to sell governments on the idea that all of our discards – plastics, food scraps, computers, almost any waste, and in this case, flood debris – can be "converted" to energy in a high-temperature (up to 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit) apparatus to produce energy. These methods are very expensive and are economically inefficient.
When we burn a ton of recyclables, we capture only a small amount of energy compared to all of the upstream energy used to make and replace those same products or materials. We lose the valuable materials that could easily be turned into new bottles, cans and other products, or to salvage and reuse the building materials, thus avoiding other environmental costs as well. The bottom line fact is that with our current methods we generate 71 tons of upstream solid waste to create the replacement 1 ton of products. This is an extremely inefficient use of time, materials, labor and City money. REHAB AND RETROFIT of Cedar Rapids is presenting better alternatives. Whole house salvage, whole housing moving/re-siting, rebuild/retrofit and material salvage are the key items in the R and R tool kit.
Because thermal technology destroys huge quantities of the resources or materials that go into it, you cannot call the energy it produces "renewable" or "green." These material waste to energy methods are green in name only… -all symbol and no substance. These methods also leave behind toxic ash, slag and air emissions, including putting a lot of carbon into the atmosphere.
In contrast to such inefficient methods such as incineration to create a small amount of energy, when we recycle materials for reuse, we reduce the need for raw material extraction, save energy and avoid greenhouse gas emissions. On a per-ton basis, studies show that recycling and composting on average reduce carbon emissions 18 times more effectively than thermal processing in the waste to energy scenario. It is possible to capture a small percentage of the greenhouse gases emitted from landfills – so while we are on the long term road to zero waste, we should capture as much of it as we can – however, we'd be much better off if the materials had been salvaged and reused, recycled, or made into compost. Composting is nature's conversion method and requires no expensive external energy source.
We can turn food scraps, yard trimmings and even used, food-soiled paper into compost, which some cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles are now doing on a very large scale, and apply the compost to farms. With these methods, we can replenish depleted soil with the nutrients and carbon that healthy plants desperately need. Nature has no waste, all used materials are in fact recycled nutrients that go back into the life cycle.
About 90 percent of what people throw away is recyclable or compostable, and manufacturers can improve their product manufacturing methods so that we can recover even more of what's left. The “Cradle to Cradle” model of manufacturing is the cutting edge protocol in this regard. In a zero-waste world, there will not be much waste to burn, and most of what's left would yield very little energy. Zero waste is the most effective model for both the ecology and the economy.
Equally important for the future of a growing green economy is that recycling and composting mean more new jobs. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports that every additional 10,000 tons recycled translates into 10 new frontline jobs and 25 new jobs in recycling-based manufacturing. Landfilling or incinerating those same 10,000 tons of material creates only one job.
Recycling and composting have proven benefits for people and the planet; allowing you to read next month's stories on today's paper. Landfilling and incineration waste valuable resources that can never be used again. It makes no sense to burn materials or put them in a hole in the ground when these same materials can be turned into the products and jobs of the future.
After the flood of 2008, Cedar Rapids will have an unprecedented amount of building material to process from flooded homes and commercial property. We need to make smart decisions to deal with this huge amount of material in the most efficient and economically productive way possible. As you will see below, demolition and landfill deposits are the least effective method.
Here are options in the order of most efficient and economically productive to the least efficient;
1. The most efficient
use of any flooded building or home that is structurally sound
is to engage in whole structure salvage. The most efficient approach is to reclaim, rehab and retrofit the structure for energy efficiency on site. Rebuild and Retrofit, Inc. is a Cedar Rapids Company is presently engaged in a demonstration project of this most efficient economic model. We are rehabbing and retrofitting the historic Cherry House. This property took on 8 feet of water at it's present site at 926 Fifth St. S.E. in the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood. This project is now 95% complete. This property has been restored to its pre-flood value as a $160,000 4 Bedroom Brick Home. This project has great value to the City as it restores the tax base damaged by the flood and it preserves and historic property in an historic area.
2. The second most efficient method to manage the materials in a flooded building that is structurally sound but cannot remain located at its pre-flood site is to carry out whole structure salvage -by moving structurally sound homes to a new lot within the same neighborhood. This preserves affordable housing stock, and preserves the historic and social fabric of a neighborhood.
As a joint effort with Hatch Development Corp. of Des Moines, Rebuild and Retrofit Inc. of Cedar Rapids is carrying out a demonstration model of this method for the efficient use of housing material resources. Other resource partners in this model demonstration effort are the Oakhill-Jackson Neighborhood Assn, The Southside Investment Board, Green Corps/Americorps, Preservation Iowa Inc. and the Iowa State University Dept. of Architecture.
As a method to create mutual benefit for both Hatch Development and Rebuild and Retrofit, the cost of demolition of two houses that need to be removed for construction of the Oakhill Brickstone Apartments is instead being used to defray the cost of moving these two homes. These two houses are presently situated in Oakhill Jackson at 519 and 523 Ninth Ave. S.E.
3. The third most efficient method to manage post flood housing materials is to reclaim, recycle and reuse building materials from those flooded homes that are fall between two classifications; a. too damaged to rebuild and retrofit in a cost effective manner, yet it is still classified as b. structurally safe to enter for salvage operations.
The Rehab and Retrofit Inc. model project listed in #1 above (Historic Cherry House) has also utilized method #3; 100 year old oak woodwork that was submerged in 8 feet of water was cleaned, sanded down and reused to trim in all windows and doors of this home with historically accurate detail.
100 year old hardwood flooring from a flooded home one block away was extracted and salvaged just before the structure was demolished. All nails were removed, the wood was thoroughly cleaned. Now these flooring materials are being applied in the Historic Cherry House, sanded, and varnished to provide another 100 years of use within an historic property. This is a model of REAL GREEN; This is the most efficient use of materials, labor and energy that is possible in the post flood circumstance. The Greenest Building is the one that is already there… -if we retrofit the existing building for energy efficiency.
Method # 4 in the descending order of efficient use of energy is the incineration/waste to energy model discussed in the opening background discussion at the beginning of this proposal. The fact that the City Government is importing a crew from Portland Oregon for the City demonstration of this model adds to the inefficiency. The State of Iowa has suffered a 12 billion dollar economic loss from the disasters of 2008. The present economic slump has thousands of Iowans unemployed. Why in the world would the City Government import an out of state work force for this project. There are 3 companies within 25 miles that specialize in building material salvage and reuse. It is really time to actually Buy Local and stop talking about it.
Method #5 is the least efficient and should only be used as the option of last resort; demolition and landfill. This last method generates zero economic value and it also renders a major loss in the cost incurred by the City to pay for demolish and manage land fill use.
Rebuild and Retrofit Inc. of Cedar Rapids Iowa is making engaged in a model demonstration project. We are engaged in whole house salvage/rebuild-retrofit, and also demonstrating the value of salvaging building materials to minimize flood debris in the landfill. These methods will save the City of Cedar Rapids money during a time of serious budget constraints and at the same time add to the options to provide and preserve affordable housing in our community.
For Further information, Contact;
Michael Richards, REBUILD andRETROFIT INC. Office, 1134 Ninth St. S.E. Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401