“Would you cut down an old growth forest just to put the lumber in a landfill? That’s what typical demolition of a neighborhood does.” This was our introduction from Kevin at Workshop – a Detroit-based furniture manufacturer that uses lumber reclaimed from Detroit’s vacant and abandoned building stock. Detroit has been trying to save homes that can be saved but is moving quickly to demolish homes which are beyond repair to stabilize the remaining neighborhoods as the City continues to reinvent itself.
Detroit has reportedly demolished 10,700 homes since 2014 and has another 2,436 in the pipeline. The bulk of these homes are demolished the way you’d expect – wrecking ball, dumpster, landfill. However, some houses are being “deconstructed” rather than demolished. Reclaim Detroit is working to fight blight, create jobs for Detroiters, and prevent resources from being landfilled by using deconstruction and reuse techniques. Their crews dismantle parts of buildings that would otherwise be destroyed, saving antique doors to old growth lumber, while training workers in the green construction and demolition industry. I’ve been told that the average Detroit house has some 10,000 board feet of reusable lumber which would normally go to waste. Some sources I’ve read indicate that would equal some 20 tons, or roughly 1-3 acres, of trees.
My family and I have been trying to live our espoused values and, while separating our recyclables, trying to be more energy efficient and composting is a start, when we decided to get a new kitchen table (don’t worry, the old one has a new home), we explored options and found Workshop. The table is old made new again and even is stamped with the address that was the source of the wood. We’re looking forward to using it for many years to come.