EPA Deconstructs A Hurricane Damaged Home

Brad Guy had a hard hat on his head, and a hammer in his hand. The director of operations at the Hamer Center for community design at Penn State University was in Ocean Springs for a specific reason.

"We're trying to show and demonstrate and educate the idea that so many of these homes that have been demolished, and will be demolished in future hurricanes for example, have so much value in terms of materials that they should be saved," he said.

Countless hurricane damaged homes got bulldozed, so they could be reconstructed. The EPA is paying for a home on Lovers Lane in Ocean Springs, and two homes in Biloxi to be deconstructed, so somebody else can use its salvagable parts.

Steve Smith is one of the EPA's Environmental Engineers. He's part of the Ocean Springs deconstruction team.

"We're actually creating more building materials and in the environment we currently have here in Mississippi, that's a pretty important aspect," he said.

For example, the home's front door was still good. So once it was cut away, it was put into storage. Eventually it will be donated to a family who needs help rebuilding.

"If we take down in an engineered manner through deconstruction versus demolition, then we get to use a lot more of the materials as they were originally intended," Smith said.

Pete Hendricks came up with the deconstruction concept in North Carolina. In that state, he works with Habitat for Humanity. Salvaged lumber is given to Habitat's Reuse Center. It's then sold to contractors. The money from the salvaged lumber is used to build new Habitat homes. Hendricks is sharing his deconstruction concept with south Mississippians to get them thinking about recycling good lumber.

"The idea is to basically change a trend." he said.

Part of the trend that worries Hendricks is based on the environment. He sees too many people filling up landfills with materials that should be reused.

Penn State's professor sees the same problem.

"So we're dismantling this home for example, to show that we can get a lot of good material rather than throwing it in landfills," Guy said.

Any material saved at the three south Mississippi homes will go to the Interfaith Disaster Task Force. That organization will determine who gets to use the windows and the lumber that the deconstruction team dismantled.