It ain’t exactly hugging a tree. But it’s pretty darn close.

While solar, wind and hybrid technology typically get most of the attention for going green, using reclaimed lumber and construction materials is one green trend that tree huggers still will appreciate.

And apparently, it’s a trend that’s growing.

Scott Gillespie, principal designer for Tahoe City-based design firm Sandbox Studios, has seen a significant uptick in the demand for reclaimed materials like lumber among his clients.

In the past two years, the percentage of the firm’s projects that use reclaimed materials jumped from about 10 percent to 15 percent to 50 percent, Gillespie said.

“A lot of people like the aesthetics of it,” he said. “They also like the fact that there’s a story behind it — we’ve used reclaimed wood from things like railroad trestles to an old water tank. Then, there’s the socially redeeming value from preserving our natural resources.”

Green growth

With the increased focus on environmentally friendly building practices, reclaimed materials are starting to get more attention.

Think of it as another form of recycling, said Colten Mellows, Montana Reclaimed Lumber’s sales representative for the Reno-Tahoe area.

The Montana-based reclaimed lumber supplier also has operations in Colorado and Arizona.

“Reclaimed lumber is a sustainable material,” Mellows said. “It cuts down on your carbon footprint and the need to chop down forests and trees. So, it’s very eco-friendly.”

It’s one reason why reclaimed materials are a good way to meet environmentally sustainable building standards set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Mellows said.

The standards — typically used to earn what’s known as LEED points — were developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The LEED system uses measures like use of sustainable materials, rainwater capture systems and renewable energy technology such as solar panels to certify a green home or building.

Others are taking the concept one step further., for example, has made a business out of getting excess building material out of the hands of do-it-yourselfers and construction companies and into the hands of other DIYers or companies looking for materials. For sellers who can’t find a buyer, the site also helps them donate the materials to groups such as Habitat for Humanity.

Matt Knox, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based, describes the site as a Craigslist for building materials.

The site, which started in just nine cities in 2009, went nationwide March 1.

“Builders typically order 10 percent more material than what they need for a project so there’s a lot left over,” Knox said. “The (Environmental Protection Agency) also estimates that 160 million tons of home improvement waste go to landfills each year. By helping people sell materials or donate them, you prevent those materials from turning to waste and just being thrown away.”

Besides the environmental benefits, history and aesthetics are other reasons for the rising popularity of reclaimed materials.

Cool factor of reclaimed material

“Sometimes, you just come across some really cool stuff,” Knox said. “Once, we were working on a project that involved selling a bunch of bricks and turns out they were taken from (Star Trek creator) Gene Roddenberry’s property.”

Mellows has seen reclaimed lumber from as far back as the 1800s. Despite being reclaimed, the materials remain sturdy enough for various building applications.

The unique look and character of things like old, massive wood beams makes the reclaimed wood popular choices for mantles or other focal points in a room, Mellows said.

“The most impressive thing I’ve seen so far is this 13-by-14 (inch) timber of hand-hewn white oak, which is extremely rare to come by,” Mellows said. “A lot of the things, particularly the old-growth woods are one-of-a-kind.”

Given the range of reclaimed materials, the price range also can vary. Old barn siding, for example, can go for $3 a square foot. Something like chestnut flooring, on the other hand, can range from $16 to $23 a square foot.

Cost was a significant factor in the slow adoption of certain types of reclaimed lumber, Gillespie said.

“Using reclaimed wood is something that has always been done but on a much smaller scale in the past,” Gillespie said. “Usually, there’s an enormous premium on the product.”

Today, the rise of reclaimed lumber suppliers, coupled with the downturn in building and construction, has made even some of the higher-end reclaimed material less cost prohibitive as they used to be. The question now is what will happen once the economy picks up again.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the market rebounds, and if pricing for reclaimed materials will jump up significantly again,” Gillespie said. “But for right now, we’re seeing quite a bit of demand for it.”

Source: RJG.Com

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