Deconstruction over Demolition
Reclaiming Old Buildings For Construction’s Circular Economy with Dave Bennink of RE-USE Consulting
April 26, 2023
Terry sits down with sustainability advocate Dave Bennink of RE-USE Consulting and Innovation Center in Bellingham, WA. Dave discusses the issue of waste in the construction industry — particularly in the process of demolition. Tune in to learn more about this issue and the various ways leaders like Dave aim to change it.
Learn More About Guest Dave Bennink
Dave Bennink has been part of the circular economy for over 30 years. Dave and his team have offered sustainable alternatives to the building industry by practicing deconstruction over demolition. He has worked throughout North America and helped out in 12 other countries, diverting over 100,000,000 pounds from the landfill by finding alternative sustainable practices. You can follow him on Instagram at @deconstructiondave, and learn more about Dave and the team’s efforts at RE-USE Consulting.
Terry Phelan: Welcome to the Living Shelter Podcast where we explore ways to create healthy, energy-efficient, and joyful places to live. I’m your host Terry Phelan, a Pacific Northwest native and an architect with over 30 years experience designing with a focus on sustainable options. Our goal is to help you expand your toolkit so you can help build a resilient future that includes comfortable and sustainable places to live. Our guests share their years of experience in one or more of the many facets of the green and natural building industries, with topics from material choices for health and wellness to energy efficiency and regenerative site design, and some big-picture ideas from thought leaders we think you’ll find inspiring.
In this episode of Living Shelter, we’re going to take a virtual dumpster dive into deconstruction as an alternative to building demolition. The traditional approach of demolishing existing structures at the end of their life, and carting the waste to the dump, really doesn’t make sense any longer. Why? Well, about 30% of material going to the landfill is construction waste, leading to higher levels of methane being produced as these materials break down and release their stored carbon. The good news is, deconstruction can divert a good portion of this valuable material to be reused. Dave Bennink of RE-USE Consulting and Innovation Center in Bellingham is helping communities and organizations near and far transition to this model.
Hi, Dave, and thanks for joining us today.
Dave Bennink: You bet I’m happy to be here.
Terry Phelan: So, how long have you been doing this? When did you start RE-USE Consulting?
Dave Bennink: It’s funny to ask that because this month is our 30th anniversary month.
Terry Phelan: Oh my gosh, congratulations!
Dave Bennink: Almost to the day, actually, it is today. Yes, that’s amazing. So yeah, it’s 30 years.
Terry Phelan: Wow. Well, I was gonna ask how many buildings you’ve deconstructed over that time period, but I’m guessing that’s maybe too many to count.
Dave Bennink: Well, we stopped counting at 5000 projects, because, you know, it just didn’t mean anything anymore. But it wasn’t you know, we don’t just take entire buildings down to the ground. Sometimes it’s kitchen remodels, sometimes it’s just removing someone’s deck. It’s whatever the project requires, right?
Terry Phelan: Yeah, so all different scales. And I mean, I’ve seen on your website that there are large buildings, like old schools, that you’ve been working on some buildings in different parts of the country that have been taken apart by your company?
Dave Bennink: Yeah, that’s correct. You know we’re bidding on a 40,000-square-foot factory building right now. That’s a big one. Some of these projects weigh well over a million pounds, just one project. So, it’s no wonder that we’ve saved over 100 million pounds in the landfill.
Terry Phelan: Yes. So before you started this, what was your background? Were you in the construction industry?
Dave Bennink: Actually, no, when I was at university, I needed an internship and I was going for a water quality degree, to be in that field of work, and the nonprofit I started working for said, “We could use a hand for a little while, we’re starting a store, it’s going to sell us building materials.” So essentially, I’m still doing my 30-year internship. So someday I'll move on, I guess, but yeah, it’s just one of those amazing twists and like, you know, where you think you’re heading in one direction, and then you know, you get an opportunity. I didn’t even look at it as an opportunity. It was just like, “Hey, I’ll help out.” And then here we are.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, 30 years later. Was there a point where you knew that you were gonna stay on this track?
Dave Bennink: I think that it was, it just came from a passion to help the community and the environment and to help, you know, in many different ways and then I just started to realize over time, that our, you know, the circular economy isn’t just helping the environment, it’s helping people. You know, it’s also doing historic preservation, it’s creating jobs, there’s lots of good things that are happening. And all at the same time, frankly, right? So that’s when it became addictive. In, you know, it became something that a lot of us in the industry just become addicted to it because we’re all looking for positives in the sustainability industry widely. You know, we’re looking for something that's making a huge difference. And, when you come across that, and there are really no downsides, it’s amazing.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah, it’s like you found your calling. And you know, that this is, is what you’re meant to do. You mentioned the circular economy. Can you tell us a little more about that? What, exactly does that mean?
Dave Bennink: Well, you know, it’s funny, because 30 years ago, no one used that term, or at least, I hadn’t heard of it. And so I don’t know when it came about, but I thought it was a good way of describing what we do. It’s basically taking a product, or, you know, a material and entering it into a system, and then with the idea that it won’t leave that system, it will circulate. The linear economy is the dominant economy now, and that’s where materials enter the system, and then they exit the system into the landfill, and all of the embodied energy and carbon and all of the negative impacts of that economy are realized. So we take a product, like a beam, like a wood beam from a building, and we save that, and it gets reused in another way. And we actually have an example of something where we could tell that the beam was on its fourth use. So it had been in three buildings, and we sold it to someone to incorporate into the fourth building.
Terry Phelan: That’s amazing. That’s, that’s a great example of keeping something circulating. I remember first hearing Bill [McDonough], Cradle to Cradle, when he was first talking about Cradle to Cradle. And, you know, rather than cradle to grave, which is that linear idea of you put something in, in the system, and it serves its life, and then it gets buried. And Cradle to Cradle is reusing it not always for the same purpose. But material that can be kept in the system and doesn’t degrade as it is reused, and over and over. So I’m imagining that this big beam that has been used three times and is going to its fourth home, might not be holding up the same kind of structure, that it might be used, is it going to be used decoratively or can it be used structurally?
Dave Bennink: Yeah, well, I think it’s Bill McDonough. We do value our products being used as they were originally designed, and sometimes they are sort of down cycle to where a door becomes a desktop, or something like that, and that’s okay with us because it’s being reused. And really, that battle is like trying to find a new home for things, it’s not too hard for us to save the things, but sometimes it feels harder to find a new home for them. It is good, for example, for a door to be used as a door because it’s replacing the footprint of manufacturing a new door. And a new door probably has a higher carbon footprint than a new desktop or a new shelf. So, we do try to keep them keep things in use in their original, for their original purpose.
Terry Phelan: I know that building construction materials are the largest contributor of solid waste to our landfills. And the reuse and deconstruction industry is turning that on its head and keeping things out of the landfills. I mean, do you talk with your customers and clients about carbon, and, you know, the carbon storage that they get with old wood versus new wood? I’m learning more and more about carbon sequestration versus carbon storage. It seems like a really important thing.
Dave Bennink: Well, two things. One is when you look at a Northwest or you look at a North American building, it’s primarily made of wood. I don’t mean all buildings, I mean a lot of the buildings are primarily made of wood. And so a lot of conversations about carbon revolve around wood. But the fact is that a lot of the other items that we save, like metal or concrete and things like that, it isn’t about the materials — sometimes, it’s not about the material as much as it is the energy and the process of creating that material, which also creates a carbon footprint or carbon dioxide, that sort of thing. So, we go way beyond wood, for starters, but here’s the deal: I work all over North America, and I’ve helped out 13 different countries now. But when I traveled to different parts of the country, I don’t assume that everyone is onboard with climate change, I don’t assume that they understand anything about carbon, frankly. But it doesn’t matter, we’re trying to reach everyone. And that’s the only way you can truly be sustainable is to involve everyone.
So, we might go to Washington State, the Seattle area, we might talk about carbon footprint because we think people have a general understanding of that here. But then we traveled to the Midwest, and we actually don’t call it deconstruction anymore, we call it building harvesting. Because they relate to harvesting, they are harvesting for a living, it’s surrounding them so that they can understand that this is another way to harvest materials. And that’s something that they relate to. And there are other areas where we traveled to, like inner-city neighborhoods and rust belt cities, and then we’re really focusing on affordable building materials and job creation, things like that. So we understand the bigger picture and we can draw on that on each of those benefits as it is best suited for that community.
Terry Phelan: That is so important to meet people really where they are, and where they can think about it relating to their lives. Because yes, we live in a bit of a bubble in the Pacific Northwest. And I love that you can change the language and change the reference point. So people are more open to making a difference, even if they don’t realize how much of a difference they’re making in other ways.
You’re listening to Living Shelter. I’m your host Terry Phelan, and I’m talking with Dave Bennink of RE-USE Consulting about building deconstruction and the circular economy. So, the circular economy is keeping products in use rather than creating a waste stream, and I understand that the reuse center and innovation centers that you’ve helped set up in other parts of the country and other parts of the world have that sweet spot of doing the deconstruction plus the sorting, and the storage and the selling? How important is it for all of those things to be handled under one roof?
Dave Bennink: So, here’s the thing — I did, like I said, 30th year of doing this, and we’ve helped almost 175 reuse businesses across North America. And one of the things you start to generate, you have like 175 business plans in your head, right? And you have all of these similarities and all of these unique aspects of each community. And each reuse operation, what their problems are, what is good, what’s not good, and what they’re struggling with. We created the Reuse Innovation Center concept, I think 2005 is when I first came up with the idea, and it’s basically saying this is a really hard business to be in. And then I realized, you know what, you go to Costco or something like that. And you think of Costco as this giant business, right? But really, it’s multiple businesses all working together to manufacture products, to ship them to Costco, to advertise them and sell them, and get customers, you know, in the store. And so Costco isn’t just a single business, it’s a group of businesses working together.
And so, that’s one of the things about the reuse industry, it was like all of us were working on our own, trying to solve all the problems all at once, without any help, and without any coordination. And so what we did is we said, we’re going to not have one business under one roof, we’re going to have 10 businesses under one roof. And some of those businesses focus on deconstruction. So they’re like a contractor. And some of those businesses take the wood from deconstruction and make something out of them like reclaimed wood furniture, or they mill beams into beautiful reclaimed flooring, and that sort of thing. And some of them repair things, and then some of them sell things.
So, like our RE-USE Innovation Center in Bellingham as nine different businesses, not all of them are co-located together. Really, we are, in a way, working together under one roof, so to speak. And it’s really helpful because you’re sharing costs, so one business was talking about it, and now it’s nine businesses talking about it. So it’s generating interest in what we’re doing, because you have those conversations going on, and you have a greater reach.
So what we’re trying to do now is reinvent the reuse industry. And it’s part of, you know, an effort to grow the circular economy and say, what if we all work together, and tried to do things in volume, like Costco does, right? They have economies of scale, so big, and we are generally all these little small businesses, sometimes, you know, from disadvantaged people groups, and things like that. But if we work together, we can be stronger and more efficient. And guess what we just took on a high school, and we saved 125,000 pounds of material in 30 days. So…
Terry Phelan: 125,000 pounds? My gosh, …in 30 days.
Dave Bennink: Because we work together, right?
Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, the synergy of that is really inspiring, too. I didn’t realize that this was like a cooperative or a collection of businesses. And it could be set up under different business models for working together. I know you also consult on international programs, or the reuse programs in international locations. Is working in other parts of the world different? The services that you provide — are they different in other parts of the world and has working in those areas changed the way that you approach things here in any way?
Dave Bennink: Well, I think that you know, in North America, we’re more likely to travel to a site, we’re more likely to physically help train people to grow the circular economy. Like, we are not just talking about it, we’re doing it, you know? And so we actually do projects here, and then we are actively trying to set up more reuse innovation centers, and then we have a lot of groups that come to us, probably 10 this year, we’ll help 10 reuse businesses get started and join the circular economy, just this year alone, and it seems to be accelerating.
So as far as overseas, you know, a lot of our work over there are curious people, businesses, entities, whatever they are — government, or businesses or architectural firms — that are are really trying to learn from us, they’re really trying to say that they see the waste, and they are surprised that we have such a robust reuse industry. I didn’t think it was, you know, that great. We’re trying to build it every day, and they’re amazed by it sometimes, and a lot of the buildings they have are not wood frame buildings, and they struggle with that. They’re trying to make it work, but everything is structured differently there. But it’s not as hard as they think. And so we’re trying to encourage groups to get started with this. And then in the last four weeks, we had a group from Switzerland, and one from France, and one from Quebec, and one from British Columbia that came to visit our RE-USE Innovation Centre in Bellingham to learn.
Terry Phelan: I know that there are much older buildings in other parts, in some other parts of the world, and imagine that the materials are going to be different, as you said, they’re not all wood buildings. And I don’t know if the old bricks, and old stone, and some of the classic building materials — are they appropriate for reusing?
Dave Bennink: Yeah, well, it’s funny you would ask that because it’s often asked in the opposite way. A lot of people think of our industry as salvaging antiques, you know, things like that; like we go after stained glass windows, and we go after old light fixtures. And maybe they’ve been to reuse stores around the Seattle area, and they see a lot of those vintage materials. They’re more valuable, frankly, if you had a new light fixture that was from Home Depot, and it was only $25 new and you save that, I mean, how much could it possibly be worth? And if you saved another light fixture that was from the 1920s. And it was really unique, you know, it might be worth $200 instead of $5, so yeah, a lot of the older materials are really valuable and sought after, especially if you have an older home, and you are trying to maintain it in with era-specific materials. But it’s really the newer materials that people question as far as whether they’re worth it because a lot of the newer materials that are being produced out there in the world are pretty inferior to the past. And we have, we can do a comparison of that because we deal with materials that are 200 years old, we deal with materials that are two years old. And so we can make comparisons.
Terry Phelan: So do you find that there is still value in reusing some of the newer materials that are mass-produced? What happens to those if they’re not of value in the circular economy?
Dave Bennink: Yeah, that’s true. You know, one of the things about our operation is we don’t give up on anything. If we were to give up on newer materials, it would be like saying, “Well, all of those materials must go to the dump, or they should go to the dump.” We’re not trying to say that. We are trying desperately to save things. And then even if we end up selling them for less money, it’s still about saving them and trying to make a positive impact on the environment and the community.
So, it’s great actually, to be able to take materials and offer them for a lower price. Because we equate sustainability and affordability as absolutely central to each other. There’s no sustainability that exists, that isn’t affordable so that it’s available to everyone. A lot of the newer materials we can sell for less and a lot of the older ones we might have a higher price because they are, for example, antiques. But we’re not trying to let new manufacturers off the hook and say, you know, we are trying to essentially hold them accountable and say, “Your products are designed to be thrown away.”
Terry Phelan: Well, they seem to be, not that they should be, but it seems like there is this whole throw-away mentality. It’s like, oh, it’s cheap. That’s not, let’s not worry about it. I’ll just buy another one. So helping people understand a different view of that is important.
Dave Bennink: Yeah, I think if you go to any new store, like let’s say you go to Home Depot, and you see materials that are on display, and they’re already damaged — so they’re displaying damaged materials, maybe because the shopping cart nicked it, or something like that, and punched a hole in it or something. And you realize how fragile and inferior that product is, that they would go on to display that material as for all to see its poor quality. And people buy it anyway. They buy it anyway.
So, our materials are clearly the most sustainable materials in the world because they have no carbon footprint, and I think that they are more durable too. So a lot of the materials that we take out are like wood — yesterday, we took out 1000 square feet of reclaimed flooring from an old 100-year-old farmhouse. And the thing is, it’s already lasted 100 years, it’s in perfect shape, and it’s very likely going to last another 100 years. And when I compare that to some of the snap-together laminate floorings that you’ll look at, you’ll be lucky to get 20 years. It really isn’t just replacing one equivalent. Sometimes our materials are producing, or they’re replacing, two or three equivalents of new, right? Because if you buy something new that’s inferior, then you’re going to have to buy it again, whereas our material will certainly last for another 100 years. And, you know, because of the first 100, it’s still doing great. There's a sales plug.
Terry Phelan: You said something a couple of minutes ago about how sustainability and affordability go hand in hand. And I think that is an alternate view, that many have, that sustainability costs more. And, to do a sustainable project, you have to be willing to pay an extra 5-10%. And we get that all the time in architecture. But, it seems that they’re, in using materials that have been mined from the industrial buildings or old homes, that, that can provide more sustainability without extra costs, although there’s got to be some costs involved in the deconstruction itself. So, I’m curious what some of the challenges are to doing this and how we can work through those to a better solution.
You're listening to Living Shelter. I'm your host Terry Phelan. I'm talking with Dave Bennink of RE-USE Consulting about building deconstruction and the circular economy. So Dave, where are the gaps in what you’re seeing, and what can we do better?
Dave Bennink: So one point is that we’re competing with machines. Think about this — why do you call it a demolition permit unless you are expecting the structure to be demolished? Why would you not call it a “building removal permit” or something like that? Right. So what they’re doing…
Terry Phelan: So there’s some policy?
Dave Bennink: In the construction industry, demolition is the assumption, demolition is the baseline. So when you think of how long you’re planning a project, and you have a schedule, you don’t allow a lot of time for demolition, because they don’t require a lot of time for demolition, and waste and destruction, right? That doesn’t take very long. And so when you’re planning a project, and you have a budget, you plan, you find out or you think about what is the demolition cost of the last building. Or what would the demolition person say, and because they’re in and out so fast and they’ve destroyed and wasted everything, it doesn’t cost as much as it would if they had taken their time.
So, the barriers to deconstruction are usually two things — because when I talk to people about all the benefits, 95% of people say, “I want deconstruction, that’s the way to go, and with two caveats: as long as it doesn’t take too long, or cost too much, then I’m in favor. That’s for me.” And as soon as you find out that it costs more or takes too long, you’re saying, “Well, that’s too bad. If it’s $500 More, and I don’t have $500 in my million-dollar budget,” or something like that. So, in essence it is a prior choice and a priority.
But one of the ways that we’ve overcome that is by telling people this fact: the average American wastes about 4.9 pounds of waste every day of their lives, okay? On average, 4.9 pounds. Do the math. It’s about 134,000 pounds in their lifetime. One of the reasons that number resonates for me is the average American home weighs about 134,000 pounds, not including the concrete. So what it means is that demolishing the average American home is equivalent to a lifetime’s worth of waste. Does that makes sense?
Terry Phelan: Yeah, yeah.
Dave Bennink: So every day of your life you try to recycle bottles and your newspapers, right? And you try to use reusable shopping bags and things. But if you choose to demolish a home, that’s your entire allotment for your entire lifetime, all in one day. All of that waste happens all in one day, despite all of your efforts and all of your shopping bags and everything, it’s all meaningless because you demolished a home in one day. Your entire lifetime’s worth of waste is wasted in one day.
So, we are trying to get people to avoid that. Now, we don’t expect them to just do it and pay more. So we have worked very hard. The first house we did took three and a half weeks. Today, if I did that house in over three and a half days, I would be disappointed. And so not only does it take less time, but it costs less. And, you know, as a consultant I don’t have a huge crew where I can necessarily do that. But that’s what I’m teaching other people to do, is to be able to work really fast to try and fit into this construction mindset that things should be done quickly like that, it shouldn’t take more time. And, and it shouldn’t cost more compared to demolition.
So, one of the ways we keep our costs down is that we get paid twice. So we get paid to take the building down, and then we get paid again when we sell the materials. So that’s why we’re trying to keep the materials in good shape because we do want to be paid twice, and that’s how we compete. And that’s how we beat machine mechanical demolition. Every week, we’re winning projects over them, despite them being able to destroy the building with one person in two days. And we’re winning anyway because we have a few tricks like that.
Terry Phelan: That’s great. Are there things that people can do to minimize the impact on schedule in other ways, like getting things prepared, planning ahead? I mean, how far ahead are you booking your crews at this point?
Dave Bennink: That’s a really good question. You’re bringing up good points. The first thing is that I don’t maintain a very large crew because I am often called off to other states and provinces to help start crews there. And so it’s hard for me to do that. But for example, we are working in King County. And so if you’re in Bellevue, and you have a project and you call us, then the first thing we’re talking about is what is the schedule like? Sometimes you’ll have a project, like we just looked at a project in Bellevue, actually, and it’s a vacant building. And they are going through the process, which is months or years of trying to figure out how to take this building down and build a new building. It’s not something that happens overnight.
So in reality, there is a lot of time just not utilized. And so we talked with them is, that if they were able to, you know, when they got the process going and they were ready for demolition (but they weren’t ready for demolition, but they had a demolition permit). You know, maybe the power the water gas is still on, you know, there were some other hurdles to jump through, we could start removing the carpets, we could start removing kitchen cabinets, things like that. So sometimes following whatever rules of the community there are, the permitting rules and stuff, we’ll start doing work, whereas the demolition person doesn’t want to show up until everything is ready. Like everything is ready. Okay, I’m gonna come in and smash it and leave. And we come in and we do surgical removal of stuff, selective work. And so we’re getting a head start essentially, right? We’re cheating. I’m a cheater. It's okay, though!
Terry Phelan: I wouldn’t call it cheating! I think you’re planning, you’re making use of gaps in the schedule that, I mean, in a construction project there’s always — the planning takes as long as the construction, if not longer. So you don’t have to mobilize your team all at once. Go in, and get done, and get out, you can come back, yeah, to do the next level, the next layer.
Yeah, so the surface items like wood flooring often take a lot of time to pull it out. Well, we don’t have to rush that because if we have, you know, if there are several weeks before the actual start date, and utilities are disconnected and all of these tasks are completed, we can do that kind of work ahead of time. Like we just did yesterday, where, you know, we spent the day removing 1000 square feet of flooring, and that takes a lot of time. So, when it comes down to it, once we’ve done that kind of prep work, for example, this house we’re doing, it will be a three-day process to get it down to the foundation. And that’s usually where we stop. A lot of our project foundation is reused. So people are excited.
Terry Phelan: Oh, that's good. Yeah, because there’s so much carbon in concrete.
Right. And so we’ve saved probably over 30 million pounds of concrete in place by, by surgically and carefully removing the building from the foundation, and then they reuse the foundation, maybe they add to it or whatever. But there are times when that actually works, there are times when that doesn’t work, like the foundation is old, or cracked, or whatever. But when it does work, you have that huge savings of money and carbon using it, and we’re absolutely suited for that task, you know, where as a machine might crack it or damage it or undermine it. We don’t have any large equipment doing that. So, that opens up the door to people. And we’re constantly trying to open the door to these possibilities. Like people will regularly reuse materials from the old building in the new building, because we made them available, whereas demolition would have, it would have been a huge expense, in addition to the demolition cost. And so that’s another way we keep the cost down, because demolition is basically - you’re paying someone to destroy all your possessions and you go out the next day and buy them all over again.
Terry Phelan: That’s so dumb. So counterintuitive!
Dave Bennink: So, there are different ways to look at cost and we try to expand people’s minds on that. Let’s say we save a bunch of wood paneling from the home that your grandfather built or something like that, and you reuse it in your new building, it is a value, it is a benefit because you’re not having to purchase that new.
Terry Phelan: Well, plus, it’s got the emotional value, if it’s a building or a home that you have an emotional tie to, in some way, a family building or just something that you love. Reusing the material can add a personal level of, of craft and enjoyment that you don’t get out of something that you buy off the shelf.
Dave Bennink: That's right. Yeah, and just honoring your family’s history as well, not destroying and wasting their dream home that they slaved over trying to get built over a two-year period or whatever they did. And you’re able to save that and just honor that memory. Just by saving it in the first place.
Terry Phelan: It sounds like you do a wide range of scale from, as you said, kitchen remodels or single-family homes, or portions of them, up to industrial buildings and schools. And I mean, how do you manage that level of diversity in your clientele? I would think that working with municipalities is completely different than working with a homeowner.
Dave Bennink: Yeah, it is challenging. I’ve done all these things multiple times in the past, so it makes it easier, I know what to expect. You have to understand that as a consultant that’s trying to build this industry worldwide, now, I don’t have the luxury of just staying in my safe spot or staying in the comfort zone of doing whatever that would be. I have to branch out, I have to do all projects and save all materials, so that I can inform my clients when they come to me and say, here’s an architect or a reuse business, you know, will come to me and say, “Here’s a project. Have you ever done one like this?” And I’m like, “Yes, I have.” I’ve done all the projects, you know, industrial and commercial and institutional and agricultural and residential. All that. And so, I kind of know what to expect, and we’ve sold all those materials so we have an idea of what they’re worth. And frankly, coming into our RE-USE Innovation Centre in Bellingham, you never know what you’re gonna find. So that actually is kind of fun for people, so there are lots of good things about it.
And there are also lots of challenges related to that, but we don’t have a choice. Honestly, you’ll hear me say that a lot, though, because I don’t come from this, from the standpoint of wanting to do this, I come from the standpoint of needing to do this. And if some of your listeners understand that difference, a lot of sustainable buildings and people in sustainability are trying to capture a little piece of sustainability and take it as their own and show it off. And that’s really just wanting it, you know, and they may choose something or not choose something like, you know, in that one project, we didn’t get the job because we were $500 higher than someone else. But they only wanted to do deconstruction, they didn’t need to do it, they didn’t feel like they needed to do it, or the world needed them to do it. And so everything that I do, and the huge efforts, and the long hours, and the sacrifice, and all of that is because I truly believe that I need to do this for our world, and for our people. That’s the difference. If more people would come with that perspective, a lot of the problems would be solved really quickly, because they’re making decisions that aren’t in our best interest. And they just don’t even understand it. I think I’ve got a deeper understanding of what sustainability is, like, when I talk about sustainability and affordability, it makes people uncomfortable. Some people. So we don’t bring it up all the time.
Terry Phelan: Well, I really appreciate that you come from that space of being committed to this and something that’s, that’s essential to making a better world and really effecting change at a deeper level. So, kudos to you and your work. I have a couple of questions — we’re getting near the close of the session — personal question, with climate change affecting so much of our lives and people like you, it’s something we think about all the time. What are a couple things you might suggest people do to become more resilient?
Dave Bennink: I said this to somebody a couple of days ago, and he said, “The time of studying, some of these issues may be over.” And I don’t mean that for everyone. But I think for everyone, to be studying issues related to climate change, at some point you have to decide whether you believe it or not, or whether you want to act on it or not. You know, continuing to study it and say, “We’re in trouble,” then a year later, “We’re in trouble. Oh, we’re in more trouble,” you know, but not doing anything about it really, just telling us how much trouble we’re in. I think that it’s time to act, and you can start with your own project.
So I think one of the suggestions we get from people is that, yeah, I know, projects are extremely taxing and complicated. And this may feel like more complication, but it does take — efforts related to the circular economy do take more time, and a little bit more complex trying to source materials. And so you want to involve the circular economy early in whatever you’re doing. Because finding the right materials and making good choices, it isn’t as simple as just talking about it, I mean, the reality is that supply and demand is really hard to manage. And so, I just think people need to think about their lifestyle choices early on, and not just throw it in at the end after they’re trying to solve all these other problems. So I wish I could think of how that could be done without more work. But it’s essential, and I think also if you’re someone that provides a service or a product, trying to find a way to keep them, or make them affordable is another side of the issue. Because if you have a product like mine, where it’s the most sustainable in the world and you have a seemingly endless supply of it that if you could access it, or if you had demand for it, that’s one of the things that we, by making it affordable, open up more markets. So just a couple of thoughts.
Terry Phelan: Yeah, and the way that the supply chain has been impacted over the last few years with the pandemic, and wars, and other things that are outside of our control, knowing that there is this additional supply, this additional supply chain, I don’t know of how many people really think of going to a used building supply center, to get things like doors.
Dave Bennink: And on that point, during the pandemic, we had a lot of new people that came to us. And why? Because they needed us, because they were out of a job, and they needed a water heater or something like that. And they couldn’t afford the new one, which the corporations had just tripled the price of it because of supply chain issues, they said, and so then our prices didn’t go up at all. Amazing. I want to say we earned a lot of friends during the pandemic because we didn’t let our community down. And we didn’t take advantage of the situation. And we were an affordable alternative when people needed that. And I think people appreciated that.
Terry Phelan: Well, congratulations. I’m glad people found you and probably have spread the word and hopefully, your business will continue to grow. And this whole movement will continue with your help. Where can people go to find out more information about your consulting and the innovation centers?
Dave Bennink: It’s reusecenter.net or reuseconsulting.com. Yeah, if there are people in King County that have a project, and we have some availability, we would love to come and provide that sustainable alternative to demolition, and if someone is trying to source sustainable building materials for a project, I mean, we have that too. And of course, our consulting services are available, you know, throughout North America.
Terry Phelan: Great. Well, thank you for your time today. It was really good having you here and exploring this, this option and helping people understand how they can, how they can contribute more positively in their projects.
Dave Bennink: Yeah, I appreciate the chance to talk.
Terry Phelan: That was Dave Bennink of RE-USE Consulting and Innovation Center. I also want to thank everyone listening in, and hope you’ll tune in again for more in-depth conversations with inspirational guests from the world of sustainable design and building. The Living Shelter Podcast is a project of Board & Vellum, a multidisciplinary design firm practicing architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture for residential, commercial and civic projects. From our studio in Seattle, I’m your host Terry Phelan. Take care and we’ll talk again soon.