Middle school remnants separated and recycled
September 18, 2008
ASPEN ” The tear-down of the old Aspen Middle School is going slowly ” as planned.
General superintendent Gerry Keezer expects the project to take more than twice as long as a typical demolition. That’s because the school is being deconstructed, rather than demolished. The contractor, Arvada-based Recycled Materials Co., Inc. (RCMI), hopes to recycle 70 percent of the estimated 10,000 tons of material that once made up the school.
So each day, heavy machinery separates each piece of steel, concrete, concrete block, rebar and brick into piles. The steel is hauled to Denver, and the rest of the materials are taken to the Pitkin County Recycling Center.
The deconstruction is part of the district’s attempt to make its middle school project as green as possible. For the new middle school, officials have applied for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification as recognition for the green building practices used on the middle school project. According to project manager Dave Detwiler, the project should certainly receive at least silver certification ” and possibly even the gold rating. There are also, on opposite ends, bronze and platinum categories of LEED certification.
Choosing deconstruction over demolition likely has also cost the district more, said RCMI consultant Shawna Bohan, though she wasn’t sure exactly how much. Contractors on most deconstruction projects try to reap the financial benefits of recycling by reusing the materials in the next project, she said. RMCI often crushes and processes aggregates on site, then reuses them in nearby buildings.
However, the school district had neither use nor storage for most of the material. Only about 3,000 bricks were retained to be used to re-face the wall of the elementary school that once adjoined the middle school. So the $470,000 the district is spending for deconstruction ” while it arguably makes it an exemplar in green building ” won’t cut costs elsewhere.
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“I commend the school for doing the recycling they’re doing right now, especially since they can’t reuse the product,” Bohan said.
The remainder of the materials are being processed at the Pitkin County Recycle Center, which does increase truck traffic, and thus the carbon footprint of the project, Bohan acknowledged. However, she noted that RMCI has done its best to maximize the use of the trucks on the project. When the trucks come in empty from Denver, RMCI puts them to work for most of the day, hauling debris to the landfill or recyclable materials to the recycling center, then loads them at the end of the day with recyclable steel and sends them back down the hill to Denver.
Another project delay has involved the challenge of having students on site, Keezer said. To ensure student safety, no trucks enter or leave the fenced-in construction site from approximately 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., while the different classes are at recess and lunch. The company also continually sprays down the site to keep dust down.
The middle school originally was not scheduled for deconstruction during the school year. However, the death of a worker killed by a falling wall during asbestos removal, along with deconstruction delays, set the project back substantially. Despite working overtime for two weeks prior to the beginning of school, RCMI will still likely spend about five weeks on campus during the school year.
And while the project has been distracting at times, said middle school teacher Mark Munger, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as he had expected.
“I thought we would have to [hold class] elsewhere,” he said, explaining that his classroom is very close to the demolition project. “But we never did.”
In fact, both he and Dee Searing, the elementary school’s writing specialist, have used the distraction of the deconstruction as an opportunity. Their students have been observing, learning and writing about the project.
Searing talked to the foreman to gain deconstruction expertise so she could teach her students about it.
Meanwhile, Keezer has set a target date for the project’s completion of Sept. 29.
Once the deconstruction is completed, the district hopes to build a playground on the site ” though cost overruns due to asbestos removal have left that project short on funds. The school board plans to spend time this winter deciding how to cut costs and find money for the remainder of the project.