By Jodi Summers

With the light rail coming down Olympic Blvd. and then switching over to Colorado, you know there ‘s a whole lot of new construction going on in downtown Santa Monica. All this new construction means a whole lot of old buildings have to come down before the new buildings can be built and with all our deconstruction that means a while lot of waste.

As of 2011, the Cal Green Building Codes requires all structures built in California  recycle 50% of the waste generated by construction. Santa Monica, green haven that we be, requires 65% of waste from construction and demolition sites to be diverted from landfills. That will move to 70% in the near future.

For the records, waste includes anything you discard from the site; wood scraps, cardboard, flashing, paint and finishing products, tools, drywall, concrete, asphalt, plastic bags, remnants of insulation, etc.

Key to repurposing old materials is the concept of “embodied energy,” or maintaining the resources needed to make the product in the first place, offers Brenden McEneaney, a green building program advisor with the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “If you make a brick, clay had to get dug out of the ground and brought to a manufacturing facility kiln,” he elaborates. “A lot of carbon was expended to make that product in the first place, and a lot would be expended to make a new product.”

Reuse is a vital new business model, employing nearly 170,000 workers at an annual payroll of $2.7 billion and generates $14.1 billion in revenue, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reusing existing materials saves on transportation impacts and other resources like water and chemicals needed to –let’s say – turn a brick into something like gravel or road base.

Failure to achieve the CalGreen recycling goals could result in delays in receiving Final Inspection Approval and a penalty equal to 2% of your project’s value. All penalties must be paid before Final Building Inspector Approval, so there’s no way around it.

In Santa Monica, one can find recycling solutions at locations like Bourget Brothers and the  Reuse People’s program > who claim to be able to get between 80 and 90% of the construction and demolition waste diverted.

The Reuse People reach their recycling numbers by working with contractors to carefully take apart buildings to reclaim as much of the original materials as possible. They then transport them to local warehouses where they sell the products below market costs.

Locally,  Bourget Brothers Building Materials has gotten into the business of  selling recycled materials > be they doors, cabinets, or even old railroad ties. John Bourget has taken to scavenging the building site for desirable recyclables, like old bricks or railroad times.

Didja know A reclaimed brick can be resold for almost the same price as a new one, somewhere between 80 cents and $1.25 in Bourget’s estimation, and it prevents a brand new structural brick from being used unnecessarily.

What with the light rail under construction on the West Side, there is surplus material around everywhere. As city like Santa Monica as a prime market for recycling because builders, homeowners and other businesses have embraced the idea of adaptive reuse.


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  1. Santa Monica Wins High-Profile Sustainability Award

    In April, Santa Monica was named the winner of the 2012 Siemens Sustainable
    Community Award in the midsize community category (population 50,000
    – 150,000). Santa Monica and fellow 2012 Sustainable Communities Chicago,
    IL (large community category) and Purcellville, VA (small community category) were chosen from among 132 communities across 40 states to become this year’s winners.

    Santa Monica’s award application focused on integrating goals and principles of its Sustainable City Plan into a wide range of city operations, services and strategic planning initiatives, including the recently adopted Land Use and Circulation Element
    (LUCE). Judges noted Santa Monica’s excellence in setting strategic citywide goals that are reinforced across multiple planning areas, such as resource conservation, economic growth, open space and land use, housing, transportation, civic participation, and human services. As part of the award, Santa Monica will receive $20,000 worth of trees from the Alliance for Community Trees.

    The awards program is a partnership between the Siemens Corporation and the US Chamber Business Civic Leadership Center. For information, visit

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