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Residents recycle their home during remodel

SOLANA BEACH — Increasingly trying to be more “green,” many people regularly recycle newspapers, glass bottles and plastic milk cartons. Solana Beach residents John Towart and Kim Montgomery have taken the reduce-and-reuse campaign one step further by recycling almost their entire house.
Towart and Montgomery recently razed their 3,600-square-foot, one-story home on Highland Drive. Rather than bulldozing the structure, they had it dismantled piece by piece.
“The effort was fairly labor-intensive and thus a little more … time-consuming, but it demonstrates what is possible given the opportunity,” said architect Gregory Castle, who estimates approximately two-thirds or more of the old house was able to be reused.
“This is a relatively high percentage in my experience,” Castle said.
During the permit process, Towart learned a city ordinance required him to recycle at least half of the debris generated by his project. He said he “used Craigslist to the max” to find new homes for his old home.
Before demolition began, items such as plumbing and electrical fixtures, appliances, cabinetry, closet doors, shelving and carpet were removed and given away. “About a dozen truckloads went to other people’s houses,” Towart said.
Two-and-a-half truckloads of roof tiles were individually removed and hand-stacked for transport to Tijuana, where all salvageable lumber was also sent. To dispose of wood pieces too small to reuse for building, Towart again relied on Craigslist, advertising free bonfire wood.
“I just sat in front of my house one day and seven trucks pulled up and took the debris away,” he said.
Drywall and insulation went to an avocado farm in Valley Center to be used for soil amendment, and concrete and asphalt were trucked to a facility to be ground up for use as new paving base.
By the end of the demolition, only three 40-cubic-yard containers of debris were sent to a landfill — seven fewer than expected, Towart said.
Towart estimates a traditional demolition would have cost him twice as much in hauling and landfill fees. What Towart and his fiancee saved monetarily, they lost in construction time. The project is now almost three weeks behind schedule.
“To some people, time is money but we were looking at it altruistically,” Towart said. “We’d rather see everything reused and not end up in a landfill.”
Continuing to be green, the couple’s new 4,300-square-foot, coastal bungalow-style home will incorporate several energy-saving measures.
“We have specified foil-backed R-30 insulation, Energy-Star appliances throughout, high-efficiency lighting, tankless water heaters and low VOC finishes for all wall, ceiling and floor surfaces,” Castle said.
Many paints and clear finishes may contain high levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can contribute to air pollution and cause health problems.
“(In January 2007), the City Council voted to encourage major remodels and other projects in our community to recycle a substantial part of the debris so as not to just dump this debris in our county landfill,” Councilman Dave Roberts said. “This is a great example of environmental sustainability.”