Volume 11, Number 1
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DECON '16 Update
BMRA Activities Update - 2015 Year in Review
Persistance Pays: Army Deconstructs Buildings at Fort Leonard Wood

• New Year, New Stuff from Old
Member Notes

DECON ’16 Update

Time is drawing closer to the DECON '16 conference and expo in Raleigh, North Carolina, February 29 - March 3.  If you have not yet registered, make your plans and get started here.  There will be speakers providing the latest research and hottest topics in building deconstruction, salvage and building materials reuse.  This is an opportunity to network with others in this field that only comes every couple of years, so we urge you to take advantage of it.  Register now!

The conference program is coming together, accepted speakers are being posted on a rolling basis.

An exciting class is planned for the days just after the main conference.  Added Value: A Hands-on Guide to Setting up your Reclaimed Wood Shop.  The BMRA has partnered with the Department of Forest Biomaterials at North Carolina State University to develop the ideal course to get your reclaimed woodshop up and running. This 1.5 day course will run on Thursday March 2nd (9-5) and Friday March 3rd (9-3), with plenty of time on Friday evening to catch your flight home.  Full details available here.

BMRA Activities Update

As we begin a new year, we're looking back over the last twelve months -and it has been an amazing year for the BMRA.  Take a tour of 2015 Year-in-Review for the BMRA here. The list of activities and accomplishments is as close to comprehensive as I can get, though there are bound to be some omissions.  I hope you take a minute to check out the great things we've accomplished this year, and invite you to be part of making 2016 even better. - Anne Nicklin, Executive Director

Fort Leonard Wood WWII-era laundry facility in the process of deconstruction, with the roof removed, ready to disassemble the superstructure.
Photo credit Bhate Environment Infrastructure, Birmingham AL.

Persistance Pays: Army Deconstructs Buildings at Fort Leonard Wood

by Tom Napier, BMRA Board member and retired Research Architect, U.S. Army CERL

I was recently described as "nuttier than a fruitcake" by a demolition contractor.  This was actually a compliment.

While the U.S. Army has many very successful experiences in deconstructing WWII-era wood buildings, the practice is still not universal.  Army offices and demolition contractors alike are often skeptical about the viability of deconstruction and materials recovery, especially in a lowest-first-cost contracting environment.  How much extra will this cost? Is there any value to salvaged lumber?  Who wants it? How long will it take?  How do I bid the project?  I'm very familiar with these and a litany of other uncertainties, all of which imply risk to both the Owner and the Contractor. 

Prior to retiring from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last June, I made my one last pitch to make better use of lumber than occupying space in a landfill.  Fort Leonard Wood, MO needed to remove three obsolete WWII-era wood buildings totaling over 80,000 square feet .   My involvement in these buildings' removal was part of the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory's support to Fort Leonard Wood in achieving their Net Zero Energy, Water, and Waste goals.  The article from Fort Leonard Wood's Guidon newspaper describes the project and results.   

Seventy-three percent of these buildings' materials were reused and recycled.  While ultimately successful, it took quite a bit of coaching to steer this project in the right direction.  My contributions included assessing the buildings for contents and deconstruction feasibility, providing specification and contract language, compiling market information, stimulating interest within the construction industry, conducting "how-to" briefings and presentations, and generally ... encouraging ... progress in a positive direction consistent with Fort Leonard Wood's objectives.  Unfortunately, various contract-related issues delayed the project.  I even delayed my retirement date, intending to see the project through its completion. That didn't work out either; the contract was awarded a few days prior to my last day at work, so I was not involved with the on-site deconstruction activities.  However, I was able to keep track of its progress through former co-workers' emails and phone calls.    To my relief, these accounts indicated things were going as intended and not as feared.

Upon the project's completion I was invited to participate in an After Action Briefing at Fort Leonard Wood.  The buildings were indeed gone.  The demolition contractor presented their process and diversion data.  Some things went very well, others not so much.  Lessons-learned were discussed from both the Army's and Contractor's perspectives and improvements to the process were recommended.  Both sides, the Army and the Contractor, felt this project was a great success.  Most gratifying for me, however, the Contractor, who had no previous deconstruction experience, indicated they intend to bid future demolition contracts for similar buildings as deconstruction projects, as doing so would give them a competitive edge. 

Why should this be of interest to you? 

I think this project, and my involvement, illustrates the benefits of BMRA membership.  Without the contacts, instruction, exposure, DECON conferences, mentoring and encouragement, and overall knowledge gathered about the deconstruction and reuse practices throughout the years, I couldn't have supported our client the way I did.  I couldn't have made compelling arguments to reuse instead of stuff a landfill.  I couldn't have offered credible information to both our clients (the Army in this case) and the Army's Contractors about how the deconstruction and reuse processes work.  I couldn't have provided tangible, first-hand examples of how deconstruction projects can be executed to achieve both economic and environmental benefits.  While I personally did not deconstruct buildings, sell, or reuse materials, the information I provided enabled the successful execution of deconstruction projects. 

At the project debriefing, the Contractor's Project Manager said he once thought I was "nuttier than a fruitcake" for evangelizing the recovery and reuse of these buildings' materials.  But then he began to think otherwise.  I'll take his remark as a compliment.  

Fort Leonard Wood Laundry facility interior, ready to disassemble the superstructure.
Photo credit Bhate Environment Infrastructure, Birmingham AL.
Insulation board recovered from the Fort Leonard Wood Laundry facility.
Photo credit Bhate Environment Infrastructure, Birmingham AL.
Sheathing recovered from the Fort Leonard Wood Laundry facility.
Photo credit Bhate Environment Infrastructure, Birmingham AL.
Cost & schedule impacts, diversion rates of previous US ARMY CERL building removal projects.
Source: Tom Napier, Research Architect, US ARMY Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory

New Year, New Stuff from Old

by Dirk Wassink, Editor, BMRA News

In the process of working with a client on a prospective building deconstruction project recently, a colleague of mine learned that there were some materials inside the buildings that needed to be removed.  As it turned out, "some materials" included about 20,000 foundry mold patterns from an iron casting company, ranging from twenty to a hundred years old, mostly crafted out of old-growth cedar.  After being stored all this time, they were just going to be thrown away.  My colleague pursued the deconstruction project, but also made a proposal to recover most of the foundry molds for reuse.  

A large fraction of these foundry molds have been recovered and are in the process of being sold.  Artists, designers and artisans have been getting very excited about these one-of-a-kind items because they look interesting and they represent a piece of our industrial heritage.  Old gears, struts, racks and pinions, wheels and other components are becoming components in new decorative items:  mirror frames, tables, shelves, lights.  While the lumber from the deconstructed buildings will be recovered and made into something new, in this particular case, the contents of the building will show themselves to have far greater value in the marketplace.

If we are to draw a moral from this short tale here at the beginning of 2016, it might be that "sometimes it's what's inside that counts most."  True in many cases for people, but also sometimes for buildings.  In order for these foundry molds to be recovered, my colleague needed to recognize their potential.  Who would want these pieces?  What could they be used for?  Intuition suggested that they were unique and could be very stylish as decorations.

Building materials should be recovered and reused.  That's what the BMRA is about, and what many of you are engaged in on a day to day basis.  Every now and again something unexpected appears on the inside of a building which is being removed.  Is it an obstacle, or is it an opportunity? 

I hope that we all can see opportunity in the unexpected this year. 

Member Notes

This section is here for you, BMRA members.  What is going on in your world?  Do you have job postings?  Did you just host a successful event?  Send notes to  They should be 100 words or less and may include up to two photos.


BMRA News is published monthly, typically in the first week of the month.  Submission deadline for articles and member notes is the 25th of the month preceding publication.  Submissions and commentary should be addressed to editor Dirk Wassink at
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