What are Existing Resources?

The name Existing Resources came about when I was explaining what sustainable construction was to a friend.  Trying to liken it to something he would already understand, I said “You have natural resources and then you have existing resources” and immediately I knew what to call my business.

To me, sustainable construction begins with existing resources.  If you have an existing building and need to improve or modify it there are a few questions that need to be answered first.   What are you starting with, where do you want to end up, and how can that best be done with the least amount of environmental impact and waste?

Even if your building must be totally demolished there are still ways to do that sustainably.  Inventorying for re-use, re-purpose, or recycling keeps that material out of the waste stream.   By planned deconstruction rather than random demolition, many portions of a building will continue to serve a useful purpose long after the original building is gone.   Some communities have special arrangements for construction waste where they will separate it for the contractor who can bring it in as mixed construction waste and up to 90% or more is successfully recycled.

With careful planning and attention to detail, your project can mine the wealth of existing resources that you already have with a lower impact on the environment.  That’s what I call sustainable construction!

Linda

3 responses to “What are Existing Resources?

  1. oso koenigshofer

    The idea of reusing “existing resources” digs deep into the fundamentals of green building. The reuse at the same site and building not only eliminates the extraction of new materials but eliminates the massive carbon footprint of the extraction, production and transportation of new products. This type of integrated solution that solves problems across the spectrum of the building process makes a big dent in the overall energy of a building. The passive house concept seems to miss this integration point. LEED credits the builder for reuse.

    • A very good observation Oso! Existing Resources are what attracted me to sustainable building in the first place. It does often feel like it is overlooked, but the good news is that the emphasis LEED and other building programs have brought to existing resources has served to bring them closer to the forefront of the sustainable construction movement. Think of the construction industry as a huge ship – it can’t change course on a dime, but it is changing course by programs and indivduals putting emphasis on reuse of materials and embodied energy. Some people embrace this for environmental reasons, others for economic, some perhaps a bit of both.

      Your comment about Passive House missing the itegration point made me consider this situation deeper. I found as I tried to reply to your comment that I had more and more to say and it has become its own blog entry. Thank-you for the inspiration. I think it is this kind of interaction in the community that serves very well being able to address the concerns of individuals while making sure that overall sustainable goals are not overlooked, and in fact are further promoted into additional active discussion. Here is a link to the post your comment inspired.
      Thanks!

      Linda

  2. A very good observation Oso! Existing Resources are what attracted me to sustainable building in the first place. It does often feel like it is overlooked, but the good news is that the emphasis LEED and other building programs have brought to existing resources has served to bring them closer to the forefront of the sustainable construction movement. Think of the construction industry as a huge ship – it can’t change course on a dime, but it is changing course by programs and indivduals putting emphasis on reuse of materials and embodied energy. Some people embrace this for environmental reasons, others for economic, some perhaps a bit of both.
    +1

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