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Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

BBJ Group currently provides demolition management services for many of its regional and national clients across North America. Recent projects have been performed for some of our clients in the manufacturing, building supplies, nonprofit, and retail gasoline sectors. Beneficial re-use can ultimately prove less expensive and definitely more environmentally responsible to your client as well as separating your demolition bid from others’ who may still be operating in the traditional “must haul it to the landfill” manner.

Beneficial re-use can be described by the old 1990s environmental slogan “reduce, recycle, reuse”.  Materials that easily lend themselves to beneficial re-use are:

  • Masonry block and bricks
  • Concrete
  • Stone foundations
  • Steel and other metals
  • Hardwood timbers
  • Doors and windows

Masonry Block and Brick

Masonry block and bricks can often be re-used in their existing condition.  Often, they are not pristine in appearance so it is unlikely that they would be used in new construction of a structure, but the masonry block and/or bricks will have a weathered look or will be marked with the manufacturer’s logo and/or place of origin.  These characteristics often make the masonry block and bricks desirable for interior decoration or exterior ornamental walls and landscaping touches.

Additionally, masonry block and brick can be ground up and used as fill material.  This approach is often used at large demolition sites to fill in building footprints to bring an area of the site to grade without having to import fill material from elsewhere on the site or from off site.  Since clean fill regulations vary from state to state and sometimes from County to County and even at the city or municipality level, be aware that using masonry block and/or brick may require testing to show it is “clean”.  Older bricks are notorious for containing high levels of heavy metals, not to mention whatever the block and or bricks may have been coated with over time, i.e., creosote and/or lead-based paint.  However, assuming that these materials can qualify as clean fill, the material can be used on site or off site as fill material. 


Concrete generated as part of a demolition project can be crushed and used on site as fill material.  This approach reduces costs for importing fill from off site as well as eliminating fees for disposing of the materials at the landfill.  Concrete can also be sold to recyclers that will crush the concrete and use it as fill material at other sites.  Note: Concrete generated as the result of a demolition project will also be subject to testing requirements similar to those required for masonry block and brick.   Additionally, if crushing the concrete for re-use as fill material, the steel reinforcement bars can be segregated and sold as scrap metal, thus, reducing cost of the demolition project and guaranteeing the ultimate re-use of the steel.

Stone Foundations

Foundation stones are often cut from granite, limestone and other attractive and durable materials.  The stones used in foundations can often be repurposed as ornamental walls and landscaping accents used at the site or sold to others for use off site.  No testing of these foundation stones is required. However, the stones may be prudent to testing if they were coated with paint or other substances.

Steel and Other Metals

 Traditionally, steel and other construction metals have been recycled due to their high resale value and the ease of segregating it from the remainder of the demolition debris.  These factors still remain, but the increased price in secondary metals such as aluminum, copper, zinc and nickel and lower grade steel have made recycling more common and much more profitable.  Brokers will often pay for scrap metals and hold them until the price reaches a certain point, and then sell the material at the highest possible price.  This makes for a stable sellers’ market, and makes the days of scrap metals price fluctuations on the sellers end a thing of the past.  Pricing for scrap metals are mostly due to demand in the foreign markets, located in China, India and several smaller southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia. 

Hardwoods Timbers

Older buildings often contained machine-milled or even hand-hewn hardwood beams, joists and other structural components.  These items can be “harvested” for use as ornamental beams and mantel pieces.  Certain hardwoods such as chestnut, cherry and walnut can fetch a very god price from brokers that deal in this realm.  Other less valuable types of wood or pieces of the aforementioned woods that are reduced to unusable pieces due to size, condition and or the presence of coatings can be reduced down using mechanical methods to wood chips that can be used on site for landscaping purposes.  If coatings had previously been used on the wood, testing may be prudent so that toxic chemicals are not made more mobile from the wood chips to the air, soil or surface water.

Doors and Windows

It is rare that doors or windows from a demolition project can be re-used in the new construction project at the site.  However, old wooden doors, sometimes solid wood and/or made of desirable types of wood, and casement or French-style windows can be salvaged and sold on the secondary market to residential developers or contractors for use as accent pieces in high end residential homes and condos.  These items are relatively easy to preserve by removing them from the structure prior to the demolition.  While the labor required to remove these items prior to demolition may be a factor, the high price that can be captured for these items justifies the up-front costs.




Richard Garlitz, P.E.

Practice Lead


J. Timothy Bradburne, P.E.