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Reclaim Detroit recycles old housing into new

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Ever wonder what becomes of Detroit’s old grand houses left abandoned? Sadly, some of them crumble. Others are demolished. But some of them are slowly disassembled and reused, so their architectural wares breathe a bit of old Detroit into new products.
Reclaim Detroit isn’t only preserving our physical history… they’re encouraging a more ecologically friendly approach to construction and creating jobs along the way, which is certainly needed. The organization has trained and employed more than 50 of our neighbors in the area’s ever growing ‘deconstruction’ business. Reclaim Detroit was founded in 2011 and developed as a part of the WARM Training center’s deconstruction efforts.

Its primary focus is to divert as much reusable material as possible from the vast number of Detroit’s vacant structures that usually heads toward landfills. They’re looking to ramp up efforts to deconstruct 15 to 20 houses a month– and, as a sustainable business, to make money doing it. Currently materials are stored at its training facility located on the campus of Focus Hope where its reclaimed wood products are available for sale.

The long-term payback is significant.  One recent deconstructed house alone had reusable content estimated to have a wholesale value of close to $50,000 and a retail value exceeding $100,000. Materials reclaimed included cedar and pine heartwood, wood flooring, windows and doors, architectural columns, brick, blocks and limestone, steel, iron & aluminum and high quality lath. If you want to see the quality of reclaimed wood products saved by Reclaim Detroit, you just have to visit the coffee bar at the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company on Woodward Avenue in midtown.  It’s just south of Wayne State located at the corner of Woodward and Alexandrine.  It’s in a fantastically designed building, constructed mostly from DR reclaimed materials from a demolished east side home.

My interest in the organization is that they use wood from the torn-down houses they deconstruct and make them into Christmas toys for needy kids.  They even have a resident ‘Toy-Maker’ on-site that will supervise interested parties and groups in team-building activities to make any number of a dozen or more different toys to donate — including cars, trains, dogs, cradles, wagons and bird house. The folks at the Detroit Regional News Hub are planning an upcoming toy making day which will be covered in all its fun and glory in a future Detroit Unspun blog post… so stay tuned!   Reclaim Detroit is hoping to have 300 toys made for its holiday children’s party so I hope you’ll get together with some of your friends and/or co-workers and contact these folks for a volunteer day of toy-making. Try it– it’s a fun time in itself and it will make you feel happy to help some little kids that are not as fortunate.

One last note of interest, on September 20 and 21 there will be a ‘Detroit Re-Nailed Artist Market’ to be featured at the Detroit Re-Nailed Market Development Summit at NextEnergy. The Building Materials Reuse Association and the Detroit Area Deconstruction Steering Committee invite industry thought leaders in both established and emerging markets to join together to share and develop strategies for the unified success of the material recovery, reuse and deconstruction industries. This marketplace summit is a continuation of the successful Detroit Re-nailed series.

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7 comments on “Reclaim Detroit recycles old housing into new

  1. The problem with Detroit has always been that history and housing have always been destroyed not renovated. Deconstruct 15-20 houses? And what? Reclaim Detroit is not preserving Detroit's history; they are destroying it to fill their pockets with profit from resale of items that weren't theirs to begin with.

  2. Babs,
    All of the homes that Reclaim deconstructs are condemned and have been slated for demolition by the city or county. Our efforts have three goals; to create jobs for city of Detroit residents, to save thousands of tons of materials from ending up in landfills and to preserve materials for reuse.

    Our parent organization WARM Training Center has been working with homeowners for 30 years by providing them with home visits and workshops on energy education and home repair, most at no cost. We would love to see a city where our services were no longer needed but that's not the case. So we do our best to see that we follow best practices and sustainability is always the focus of our efforts.
    Lisa Grace

  3. What you guys are doing is terrific for the community and the environment. More cities should take a closer look at what your doing and start implementing some of the same programs.

  4. The problem with Detroit has always been that history and housing have always been destroyed not renovated. Deconstruct 15-20 houses? And what? Reclaim Detroit is not preserving Detroit's history; they are destroying it to fill their pockets with profit from resale of items that weren't theirs to begin with.

    Wooden cottages in India

  5. The problem with Detroit has always been that history and housing have always been destroyed not renovated. Deconstruct 15-20 houses? And what? Reclaim Detroit is not preserving Detroit's history..

    Log cabins

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