Amateurs vs. Professionals

Part 1.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the years as to amateurs vs. professionals, and a recent NPR show brought this subject to the forefront for me this week. The terms provoke much controversy in many industries. Related specifically to Building Materials reuse, the two words bring to mind various images, conversations and companies/non-profits, as well as project’s which I have either seen or overseen.

To start with the easy and fun topic of Building Materials Reuse Centers, there are varying degrees of professional and amateur. The clean well lighted Habitat ReStores, which boast a huge number of volunteers and backing from their parent organizations, are all very professional looking and vary widely in success. In terms of Building Materials Reuse, some are better at taking in used materials than others based on their location and other factors, but reuse of building materials isn’t their primary mission.

Then you have the behemoth Urban Ore, with its acres of materials which can seem overwhelming and maybe a bit amateurish to an untrained eye, but watch out – these guys have a mean bottom line and are pros at salvaging from the Berkeley transfer station (and happen to be an early inspiration of mine!). Another gem, small, and tucked away in Fairfax, The Away Station is housed in an Ace Hardware lumber store (Fairfax Lumber), and a challenging unusual space. But they are really kicking-butt these days and are an exciting group to watch. Honestly, most Reuse Centers are Pros at what they do, as much as you can be in a business where the tail wags the dog, with haphazard supply driving inventory.

Deconstruction is another beast altogether though. What started as small non-profits traveling sometimes 4-8 hrs away for a job has now blossomed into a full scale industry, with demolition contractors competing for the work alongside straight deconstruction firms. Initially, you might have seen an all volunteer crew coming out for free to demolish a house, but these days insurance has caught up with us and that can no longer be attempted! There are real Pros out there – and in the Bay Area you have GreenLynx, Marcan Enterprises, The Reuse People and a few others that focus their training and energy on making deconstruction a viable industry to further their company and to benefit the environment. Demolition contractors have joined in the game, and while some are completely capable of performing the actual deconstruction work, unfortunately most are amateurs when it comes to materials salvage for reuse. Most of the recovered materials may not actually be reusable once removed.  This is detrimental to our industry, putting low-poor quality materials in stores that really diminish our standing and reputation.

So please – choose wisely when choosing a contractor for deconstruction. Make sure you talk to the recipient of the materials before you sign the deconstruction contract, and find out the status of the contractor from their point of view. This will ensure the value of your materials is not decreased by the non-profit for tax purposes and will help increase the reputation and quality of our industry!

(I have plans for a Part 2, but no timeline set just yet)


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