What happens to the buildings that aren't in good enough shape to upgrade? Empty,
decaying buildings are an eyesore – but
demolishing them means valuable,
reusable materials take up space in a
That's where Chris Rutherford
comes in. The executive director of the
Architectural Salvage Warehouse of
Detroit rescues wood from Detroit-area
buildings for use in everything from furnishings and wall treatments to guitars
and speaker cabinets.
His training in interior and furnishing
design led him to develop a solution for
the materials coming out of Detroit's
abandoned residential, commercial and
"It's just beautiful material," Rutherford
explains. "It's sometimes the original
growth forest of Michigan or the second
growth, depending on how old the house
is. Instead of an architect specifying
lumber from a forest in Brazil, they can
specify materials that were harvested
here in Detroit from homes that are no
longer in use."
What is Reclaimed
Wood Used For?
Products made from salvaged,
reclaimed or reused wood can contribute
to LEED credits, so if you're looking to
earn a certification, investing in reclaimed
wood products is a great way to add to
your point total. Depending on the manufacturer, you may be able to trace your
pieces back to the factory, home or office
they were first milled for.
"Workshop Detroit makes a lot of
great tables and other pieces of furniture,
and they hand-stamp on each piece the
address that it came from," Rutherford
"When you get into a project like the
Detroit Foundation Hotel, which was
originally the fire department headquar-
ters in the city of Detroit, we reuse a lot
of the materials that we salvaged from
that project back into that project, as
well as bringing in materials from other
places. Whether it's written or stamped
on the piece, it's definitely part of the
story that's told."
How to Get Involved
With Salvaged Materials
Architectural Salvage Warehouse ships
all over the U.S., so if you need aged lumber, trim work or windows, you can order it
just like you would order brand-new wood.
If your building is far away from Detroit
and you're looking to buy materials closer
to home, Rutherford recommends reaching out to the Building Material Reuse
Association (BMRA), where he serves on
the board of directors.
"That's a national organization that
helps people find their local reuse outlet or
deconstruction operator," he says. "There
are local outlets in many of the regions,
and the BMRA is an option to help find
If, on the other hand, you're looking to
downsize your physical footprint or rebuild
into a structure that better serves your
needs, you can benefit from the ware-house's work in more ways than one.
Not only can you keep reusable materials from wasting landfill space, you can
also reap considerable tax profits from
donating your building to this 501(c) 3
"Those materials are a donation to us,
and we work with third-party appraisers to
determine the value," Rutherford says.
"For business owners who are in the 20
percent tax bracket, if they have a tax liability and they pay us to deconstruct and
they get a donation receipt for $100,000,
they're going to get $20,000 back. And
they'll still be over demolition $10,000 in
Donating your building materials
doesn't have to hold up the process either,
Rutherford explains. "If we get involved at
the right point in it, it shouldn't impact the
timeline. Taking apart a building by hand
is obviously going to take longer than
crunching it up and throwing it away, but
typically, the buildings sit there for a while
for permitting and different parts of the
process. We can get in there and get our
work done before it affects the owner."
Showing off your use of reclaimed mate-
rials is more than a contribution toward
your green building certification – it's a
statement that your organization cares
about the environment. Your building's
story can reflect the community around it.
"The businesses that we've worked with
that have made the reclaimed materials a
feature of their space have definitely seen
the benefit of that in their business, and
those places are what's creating some of
the trend too, because some of them made
the decision to do that before it was popu-lar," Rutherford says.
"They bring business in because of that,
because of the aesthetics and because of
the story. It's a triple bottom line impact
for everyone involved."
Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.
com is a senior writer for BUILDINGS.
The Benefits of Reusing Old Buildings
ARCHITECTURAL SALVAGE WAREHOUSE OF DETROIT ARTIST CREATES ART FROM SALVAGED MATERIALS
MATERIALS from abandoned buildings in Detroit are seeing a second life.
Listen to Chris Rutherford talk
to BUILDINGS about the many
benefits of repurposing the
materials from abandoned
homes and buildings in Detroit.