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As we watch the cost of building materials and houses increase more and more, we all get a little more innovative with resources for our next project.

There is no shortage of quality used materials; this is demonstrated by the fact that four million tonnes of building materials end up in Canadian landfills each year. What is missing are storage facilities to house materials between users.

Many communities are now establishing second-hand building supply centers and savvy builders are making it a point to stop in regularly. In the absence of centers of pre-loved building materials, informal exchanges multiply. Local social media swap forums feature entire kitchens, project wood scraps, and unique vintage finds.

The upcoming Powell River Resource Recovery Center will pave the way for more local reuse with better separation of materials at the new transfer station and recycling center into more categories than ever before.

Avoiding new construction materials can also save your wallet. That said, there is a need to establish industry standards to allow for greater reuse. There are restrictions on reused materials when building structurally integrated components. Recycled paint, kitchen cabinets, repurposed doorknobs, vintage sinks, deconstructed shelving, and repurposed flooring are fair game.

Nowadays, we talk a lot more about the circular economy. Rather than the make-use-throw away model, we think about keeping the material in circulation. Deconstruction is making a comeback and demolition is moving away a little more each year.

Municipalities such as Metro Vancouver have a demolition bylaw in place and the City of Victoria has one behind the scenes; these work to ensure a more sustainable use of resources. The regulations aim to reduce the waste of perfectly usable building materials by encouraging the process. A certain percentage (often between 75 and 90%) of the building materials of older character houses in particular, must be separated and recycled or reused.

Pre-1940s homes have valuable architectural features and tend to be built with old wood, so they were the subject of the first wave of deconstruction permits. However, not all houses are rated the same for deconstruction.

Whole businesses are now based on the growing deconstruction industry. Unbuilders is a Vancouver and Vancouver Island based company established in 2018. As salvage experts, they envision a future where demolition becomes a thing of the past.

Deconstruction has a long list of admirable side benefits, including reducing natural resource extraction, creating more jobs than demolition, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and keeping our swollen landfills. Although the deconstruction process takes longer than demolition, it can be less expensive when separated materials are recycled for free or at low cost and other materials are dropped off at building supply centers, allowing avoid spill fees and potential fines for rule violations.

If you’re not already in the housing market, it may seem like a dream that is getting further and further away on the horizon. Moving company Nickel Bros solves this problem by relocating entire homes, sheds, and even industrial buildings all over southwestern British Columbia and Washington.

The environmental benefits are obvious, but it’s the dramatically reduced cost of homes that is fueling the industry aflame. Recently, an impressive 7,000 square foot 1935 Tudor-style home was moved from Oak Bay to Saltery Bay. An average 1,600 square foot house alone represents 60 trees of lumber and between 60 and 80 tons of building materials.

Complete home relocation is expected to grow in popularity over the coming years, saving both buyer and seller money while extending the life of a perfectly sound home.

Everyone deserves a home, and an affordable home. Fortunately, amid the chaotic market alternatives for sourcing used materials, even entire homes bring us greater equity with each other and with the Earth, which is home to us all.

Let’s Talk Trash is Qathet Regional District’s waste reduction education program. For more information, email [email protected] or go to LetsTalkTrash.ca.