Monday, March 16, 2009

Building Material Re-use and EJ

I recently came across the website for the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) which is a non-profit educational organization that works to facilitate building deconstruction instead of demolition and also the reuse and recycling of building materials which have become available through the process of deconstruction. The currently operate in both Canada and the United States. The BMRA works to bring companies and organizations together to share information and overcome barriers to building material reuse and recycling.

The company's goals are ones that are shared by many in the environmental field:
  • Reduce the consumption of new resources
  • Avoid landfill waste and pollution
  • Create value-added markets and increase cost-effectiveness
  • Expand job opportunities and workforce development skills
By implementing these goals, they hope to "increase the opportunities for the recovery and reuse of building materials in an environmentally sound and financially sustainable way." This accomplishment could benefit not only the construction field but also: our economy (by providing jobs and more affordable building materials), protect our communities from environmental injustice (see below), and reduce the consumption of non-renewable and/or virgin materials.

Participants of the Central and Eastern European Workshop on Environmental Justice (EJ) (Budapest, December 2003) (CEPL) defined environmental justice (and injustice) in the following way:

"Environmental Justice:
A condition of environmental justice exists when environmental risks and hazards and investments and benefits are equally distributed with a lack of discrimination, whether direct or indirect, at any jurisdictional level; and when access to environmental investments, benefits, and natural resources are equally distributed; and when access to information, participation in decision making, and access to justice in environment-related matters are enjoyed by all."
"Environmental Injustice:
An environmental injustice exists when members of disadvantaged, ethnic, minority or other groups suffer disproportionately at the local, regional (sub-national), or national levels from environmental risks or hazards, and/or suffer disproportionately from violations of fundamental human rights as a result of environmental factors, and/or denied access to environmental investments, benefits, and/or natural resources, and/or are denied access to information; and/or participation in decision making; and/or access to justice in environment-related matters."
Environmental Injustice exists all over the world from Asia to the US. You probably drive past a community that is fighting this injustice everyday, or maybe you live in one of these communities. One of the battles that deconstruction will fight will be environmental justice.

Through the process of deconstruction and reuse of these recycled materials, we are also severely depleting the amount of materials that are being thrown into landfills. During demolition, hazard and non-hazardous potentially reusable materials are all collapsed into 1 pile. These hazardous materials sometimes fail to be separately prior to entering the landfill and can contaminate the land and/or emit toxic fumes into the air and atmosphere near homes. This type of pollution is completely avoidable! By deconstructing a house in a manageable and systematic method, not only are the wood, metal and other fixtures able to be reused but we are preventing this pollution and indirect harm of communities.

There are many other companies like the Building Materials Reuse Association out there trying to promote a healthy environment, green jobs, and the reduction of consumption...all you have to do is a simple search for "Building Material Recycling".

Center for Environmental Policy and Law (CEPL)

The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA)

No comments:

Post a Comment