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Start-up deconstructs buildings, reconstructs history

Ryan Morden
D-Build founders want vacant houses (like this one in Syracuse's Near West Side) deconstructed rather than demolished. That way, the materials can be reused.

The deconstruction movement promotes the practice of deconstructing properties, rather then demolishing them. That way, the materials can be reused rather than ending up in landfills.

The problem is the people interested in reclaiming old building materials have a hard time finding people who have them.

The founders of D-Build.org are hoping to solve that problem by creating a Craigslist-type website for people to exchange old building materials. As an added bonus, the site document the history of the structure that’s being deconstructed, according to D-Build’s Grant Meacham.

”When you have a piece of wood that came out of an old house, that’s not just a piece of wood, it was a part of a house where a family lived, where multiple families lived,” said Meacham. “It was part of a community and you don’t want to orphan this material by severing that history.”

To keep that history alive, barcodes are attached to building materials When the product arrives a customer with a smart phone can scan it. A website that displays historical information about the material’s previous life pops up. Instant connection to the past.

The big challenge to making the site a success is getting people to use it. Ebay wouldn’t work if there were no buyers or sellers. D-Build founder Rob Englert would like to see city planners incorporate deconstruction into public policy.

“That’s what we’d love to see happen in the Near West Side of Syracuse. It would be ok, ‘we’re going to use 15 percent of all locally sourced of reclaimed lumber in any construction in any new construction in this certain four block radius',” said Englert.

Carlos Suarez, also with D-Build, says if more demand for reclaimed building materials existed, he could see large hardware stores having a reclaimed materials section, just like a store has an organic foods section.

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Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.
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