BOULDER, Colo --- There are few things more fun to watch than the demolition of a really big building. But after all that fun, what happens to all that smashed building? It goes to the landfill.
According to the National Institutes of Health, construction materials make up 30 percent of landfills globally.
That brings us to Boulder, Colorado.
The way the city took down the old Boulder Community Health Hospital was so much less fun, but so much better for the environment.
The hospital was carefully dismantled, piece by piece, salvaging 93.4% of the building material for reuse or recycling, according to the city. That’s 30 million pounds of material kept out of the landfill.
This is the city of Boulder’s first major deconstruction project. Housing and municipal offices called Alpine-Balsam will be built here using some of the deconstructed material.
Deconstruction took three years. That's eight months longer than traditional demolition would’ve taken and it added 20% in labor costs to the $16 million project.
It's unclear what the bottom line will be, but the city says some of that extra 20% will eventually be off set by the salvaged materials. "It's not apples to apples when you look at the materials saved you look at the full environmental cost in terms of manufacturing, transportation - getting raw, virgin materials to a site. Us being able to deconstruct that building and save and preserve those materials," said City of Boulder policy advisor Emily Freeman.
Pieces of the old hospital are already being used in municipal construction projects.
Steel beams from the old hospital are being used to build the City of Boulder's new Fire Station No. 3.
Boulder and Palo Alto, California are the only U.S. cities now requiring "deconstruction" for all buildings. Boulder says that 27 other municipalities are in the process.
Asked if she could one day see this being the way things are done, chief project architect Michele Crane says, "I don't see why this won't be the standard in the very near future."
And that's great news, even if it's not as fun to watch.