Architctural waste from the airport neighborhood home removal project is recycled and ready for resale at ReSource.

Reprieved, Recycled, Repurposed: Materials Salvaged from Demolition Find New Life

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Thursday September 03, 2015

One by one, 94 homes in the Burlington International Airport’s home demolition project are disappearing. However, you won’t find the materials from the houses and yards in the trash. Instead, you’ll find those appliances and cabinets in other homes, plants taking root in other yards, and doors being reused and now in place welcoming visitors into a different home on another street. Salvaging and reusing materials has been an on-going effort on behalf of the airport, its consultants, ReSOURCE, and the community at-large.

The FAA-funded housing removal project, which began in mid-April, is the first project of its kind to comply with the new state recycling law. Act 175, which came into effect January 1, 2015, mandates the recycling of “architectural waste.” Projects subject to the law must meet the following criteria: projects that produce 40 cubic yards or more of architectural waste, are within 20 miles of a solid waste facility that recycles architectural waste, or is for a commercial building or a residential building with two or more units.

This is also a first for Meyer’s C&D Recycling Facility, one of the facilities certified by the State Solid Waste Program to accept all six types of architectural waste.

Contractors are required to separate and recycle the asphalt shingles, metal and wood, PE Stantec/Resident Engineer Bernie Gagnon said. Additionally, concrete from the foundations is being used as backfill, and asphalt from all the driveways is being recycled.

While the Burlington International Airport uses the state law as its guide, the airport has gone above and beyond the call of duty, said Gene Richards, BIA’s director of aviation.

One way the airport’s exceeded expectations is through its partnership with ReSOURCE, a nonprofit community enterprise located on Pine Street in Burlington. Dedicated to environmental stewardship, ReSOURCE has spent time going through each and every home and salvaging and reselling household items.

The project also enables ReSOURCE to provide its crew members, members of YouthBuild (a program of young Vermonters in Chittenden and Washington counties who have dropped out of high school and need job training), with skills and experience.

“[The project] dovetails perfectly with our mission,” explained Jeff Schake, the building materials store manager at ReSOURCE. “We’ve brought back so many great things that were honestly destined for the landfill.”

“It’s hard for us to get really good materials. We rely on donations and deconstruction projects and salvaging, but we don’t get the opportunity to go to 94 homes and get materials. We never do that many in a year, ever! We were in the right place at right time.”

Hardwood flooring, windows, cabinets, appliances, decking, sinks/toilets/tubs, doors, lights, shutters, and door knockers are among the many items ReSOURCE collects for reuse. These items either end up in its store or are donated to nonprofit organizations assisting low-income families.

Those items don’t sit for too long, though. Several residents have requested materials along the way; some have even arrived on site. ReSOURCE is not allowed to sell on the demolition site, though; they have to sell out of their store. “There have been people who have shown up and said, ‘I want these,’ and the guys have taken them out, they’ve met the truck at the store, paid for them, and off they go,” Gagnon explained.

Individuals regularly approach Gagnon for items of interest. When a resident on Delaware Street asked for chain link fencing, he made it happen. Re-using siding on Maryland Street? No problem. Every day, there’s opportunity.

“Gene’s direction was that if someone asks for something, the answer shouldn’t be ‘no,’” Gagnon added. “It should be, ‘how can we work the project to help you get it.’”

“We’re building a customer-base and following,” Richards said. “Every day there’s a story. It’s neat how the infrastructure of the local community seems to be stronger because of this.”

One property in particular, 397 White St., is on a separate contract with ReSOURCE since it was purchased by the airport as a brand new home. Gagnon explained that ReSOURCE essentially “built it in reverse.”

Based on the quality of the materials, many items were already sold for reuse immediately after deconstructing the property, Richards reported.

To help track progress, ReSOURCE provides the airport with a weekly update of all the items salvaged. Dirt Tech Company’s most recent report shows that 45.44 percent, almost half of the materials, have been recycled. To-date, that calculates to 658 tons of material.

The project’s recycling efforts aren’t only limited to housing materials.

“Dozens of people have called for plants,” Gagnon said.
The biggest success story for plant reuse has been with the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes in Burlington. Over the course of the summer, people have collected plants, dressed up the campus with the plantings, and even had a plant sale at the end of the school year which raised about $600.

Even rocks on site have served a purpose. A Winooski woman requested to have large rocks set aside for her to help mitigate erosion caused by water runoff from a property uphill from hers. All rocks requested by her are labeled as “Lisa’s Rocks.”

Gagnon recalled the most unique item he’s retrieved for a neighbor, and it’s one you won’t find at ReSOURCE’s store.

“Back in mid-June, I got a call from a woman who said she used to live on Airport Drive, and she said when her son was a little boy, they put a time capsule in the wall.”

Since she could not enter the home, Gagnon met her at the house, learned that it was in the wall near the kitchen, kicked a hole in the wall, and recovered a brown envelope from the 80’s.

“I brought it back out, handed it to her. Now he’s fully grown, and she was planning to give it to him for a Father’s day present.”

All in all, the project has brought the airport and community together, and relationships are continuously being built, Richards said.

“It’s amazing how people know who we are,” Gagnon said. It’s not uncommon for residents to watch the day-to-day work and stop by for a chat.

While residents are giving materials another chance at life in a new location, Richards said many who have sold their airport neighborhood properties are taking the opportunity to live elsewhere in South Burlington. The folks from 397 White St. now reside at Cider Mill, for example.

“We’re making housing in South Burlington,” he said. “We put them in a better place. This is what this project is all about.”

To view ReSOURCE’s household goods building material store, visit the warehouse location at 266 Pine St. in Burlington, or contact ReSOURCE at 802-658-4143. Gagnon is also available at 802-316-1320 or at

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent