Recyclables come home

Reuse: The Loading Dock takes donations of building materials and sees that they are used for affordable housing.

June 11, 2000|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Bruce Hendricks stopped by the $2.15 million estate he recently purchased, two men had already ripped out the whirlpool in the master bathroom and were carrying it through the house.

Drywall littered the floor of the great room and there in a line were light fixtures too numerous to count.

Rolls of carpet -- pulled up from other rooms in the house -- were stacked in the dining room.

Hendricks could barely walk through the master suite, where in an unceremonious display that looked like a cut-rate home products array, sat a bidet, a washing machine, a utility tub, ceiling fans, sinks and other bathroom fixtures and fireplace grates.

Little by little the men from Ardo Contracting in Columbia were "deconstructing" his home, and hauling it off to The Loading Dock, the Baltimore-based clearing house for recyclable building supplies.

Hendricks, a long-time real estate investor, knew before he purchased the 4-acre estate in exclusive Potomac that the home and the guest house would have to go.

Located in a enclave of decades-old estates, the property had seen better days. In fact, Hendricks had a firsthand knowledge of the home for years since it previously had belonged to a friend.

By the time an agent approached Hendricks about buying the property -- his friend and wife already had moved out -- the estate had been vacant for more than a year.

The three-bedroom guest house, just a short walk from the main house, was most recently used to store lawn-care equipment. The living room and other rooms in the house were dotted with dirt, leaves and outdoor debris.

The five-bedroom, six and-one-half bathroom house was beginning to show its age. Built in 1964, in the past 15 years the home had been updated and expanded with a great room and a first-floor master bedroom suite. But the additions also made the home's floor plan more convoluted. There was no real flow for entertaining purposes, Hendricks said.

It was the mismatched additions and the extensive work required to bring the overgrown grounds back into shape that convinced Hendricks he had better start fresh.

He could've hired somebody to bulldoze the place. He wasn't interested, however, in contributing tons of material -- and thousands of dollars in tipping fees -- to Montgomery County landfills.

Instead, Hendricks decided to ask Loading Dock staffers what they thought could be salvaged and reused. He donated those items, gaining the satisfaction of knowing they'd find a second life in someone else's home -- as well as receiving a tidy tax deduction.

"My main incentive [for the donation] was not to see everything end up in a trash heap," he said. Sally Franklin, donations director for The Loading Dock, said Hendricks and property owners like him are part of a growing trend. They donate entire homes or buildings to housing organizations so that the structures can be "deconstructed" piece-by-piece for their parts.

The Loading Dock has handled four such projects in the past 12 months, although Hendricks' donation was by far the largest.

The Loading Dock has been recycling building materials since 1984.The nonprofit organization was the first in the country to become financially self-sufficient doing so.

Traditionally, materials are donated to The Loading Dock by builders, contractors, corporations and homeowners in the middle of remodeling projects. Items are offered at discounted prices to builders and others involved with affordable-housing programs. Individual homeowners who meet stringent federal income requirements are eligible as well. (All buyers must be members of The Loading Dock.)

The items sell for a minimal handling fee -- usually a fraction of the original cost. The handling fee is how The Loading Dock covers its bills, Franklin said. Donations are tax-deductible. Donors consult with their accountants to set the value of the donation.

In the past 16 years, The Loading Dock has "rescued" more than 33,000 tons of reusable material.According to the organization's records, this has saved low-income and community housing projects more than $6.7 million in building costs.

The process is simple. "We'll go out and take a look at the house, visit with the owner and make an inventory of what's in the house," Franklin said. "Then we have to come back and figure out if we can pay somebody to take those [items] out for the money we're going to get for them."

The downside of such projects is often the cost. The Loading Dock doesn't have the manpower, skills or budget to handle a deconstruction project in-house, and hiring an outside contractor sometimes puts the project out of the group's price range.

"We generally break even on these projects," Franklin said.

The cost must be weighed against the chance to acquire a large number of items all at once instead of waiting for them to trickle in, she said.

The volume of materials donated by Hendricks made deconstruction of the two homes on his property more than worthwhile.

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