With over a third of Victoria’s landfilled material coming from the construction sector, the City will pen a new bylaw that will substantially increase the salvage of reusable building materials starting next year.

Construction and demolition activities in Victoria generate between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of landfilled waste each year. Wood products, including old growth lumber, make up two thirds of this waste.

“There are significant economic, social and environmental benefits to reusing salvaged building materials, all of which help Victoria to become a resilient community,” said Mayor Helps. “With our landfill filling up, lumber shortages sweeping across the country, and the economic impacts of COVID-19, we are taking advantage of the value in our existing resources and starting the shift to a circular economy.”

Reducing waste from the built environment was one of the priority actions identified in Zero Waste Victoria which Council approved in December 2020. Out of 40 strategies within the plan, this action alone will bring the City 15 per cent of the way towards its waste reduction goal of 50 per cent by 2040.

This direction by Council is also aligned with the Capital Regional District’s newly adopted Solid Waste Management Plan, which aims to cut waste by a third over the next ten years.

Unlike conventional demolition, deconstruction involves taking apart a house in the reverse order it was built, allowing nearly all the materials to be diverted from landfill and either reused or recycled. These salvageable materials include old growth lumber that was used to build homes up until the 1960s.

“It’s not waste, it’s just wasted,” said Adam Corneil, founder of Vancouver-based company Unbuilders. “We dismantle buildings by hand, layer by layer. This practice keeps irreplaceable materials within the supply chain and creates more jobs for the community.”

Research out of Metro Vancouver indicates that deconstruction creates six to eight jobs for every one job in conventional demolition. Focusing efforts on reuse presents Victoria with an opportunity for economic recovery through the creation of new jobs and businesses.

“Construction is constantly evolving and innovating necessary strategies to ensure our communities are built in an environmental and sustainable way,” said Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association. “It only makes sense that we try to reuse good building materials that would otherwise just be directed to our landfills.”

Featured image: City of Victoria (Tourism Victoria)

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