Habitat Offers Some Green Incentives


    GRAND RAPIDS — A recycle and resell program initiated by Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is providing builders with the means to positively impact the environment and get a tax write-off at the same time.

    It started with the opening of Habitat’s ReStore retail outlet and warehouse in May 2004.

    ReStore sells overstocked, discarded, discontinued, new and used building materials that are donated by contractors and corporations — materials that would normally end up in a landfill. ReStore profits go toward the construction of more Habitat homes.

    Typical ReStore merchandise includes cabinets, doors, windows, countertops, hardware, lighting, plumbing and electrical fixtures, roofing, flooring, lumber, appliances and furniture. The pricing on like-new products starts at 50 percent of retail, and goes down.

    Several months after ReStore’s opening, Habitat established a salvage program to retrieve still usable materials and fixtures from homes and buildings scheduled for demolition or major renovation.

    The first objective is to use whatever is salvaged for Habitat homes; everything else goes to the ReStore facility at

    5701 S. Division Ave.

    and becomes available for sale to the public.

    Building owners that authorize Habitat to remove salvageable items prior to demolition can claim a tax deduction because it’s considered a charitable contribution. If, for instance, the owner estimates the current market value of all the building’s salvaged materials at $5,000, he gets a tax donation receipt for that amount.

    Habitat’s executive director, Pam Doty-Nation, said the retail outlet is netting about $1,500 per day.

    “My staff has been telling me we need a bigger parking lot already, which is wonderful. We just took a guess at where we wanted to be in terms of net sales per day and we’re pretty much right on track for that.”

    The salvaging program took on an added incentive for builders in November when the U.S. Green Building Council introduced a LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) certification that established green building criteria for commercial office real estate.

    If a building is slated for “green” renovation rather than demolition, the owner may be eligible to earn points toward LEED-CI certification because of the environmental impact Habitat’s salvaging efforts have in diverting building waste from landfills, said Diedre Remtema, a designer at ESJ Design, a commercial interior design firm.

    “Just because Habitat comes in and takes all the salvageable materials doesn’t mean the building owner automatically gets LEED points, but Habitat does play a really big role in helping achieve those points,” Remtema explained.

    ESJ Design and Springthrough Consulting, a technology firm, are seeking LEED-CI certification on the green renovation of an existing building they plan to share at

    2300 Oak Industrial Drive

    . Habitat is handling the “deconstruction” or salvaging portion of the project.

    Remtema said specifics of her firm’s “greening” project include indoor air quality improvements, use of materials with high recycled content, water-saving plumbing fixtures, skylights and windows that provide tenants with access to day light and outdoor views, and reuse of a lot of existing furniture.

    Green Building Council Spokesperson Taryn Holowka said there are five main areas the council looks at, and that a building has to score at least 21 points to achieve the certification. She said a “big part” of the LEED-IC rating focuses on measures that optimize a building’s energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.

    “We’re excited because we’re one of the first LEED for Commercial Interiors projects,” Remtema remarked. “The LEED certification for commercial interiors was developed because there is a huge market for renovation. There’s LEED certification for brand-new buildings, but I think that renovation of tenant spaces and leased spaces is actually quite a larger market than the market for brand-new buildings.”

    Doty-Nation said Habitat officials weren’t aware of the fact that building owners could get LEED points for salvaging until Remtema brought it to their attention.

    “We’re delighted to let businesses know that, because it can be helpful to both of us,” she said.

    Doty-Nation estimates that Habitat has deconstructed eight to 10 buildings since the program got underway. Most of its salvaging project leads have come via word of mouth.

    A recent deconstruction project, for instance, involved a $2 million home on Lake Michigan. Materials salvaged from that project and recycled at ReStore made $7,000 for Habitat, she noted.

    “We expect to grow the ReStore business in the next year, and, hopefully, the salvage program will help us do that even more,” Doty-Nation said. “People are really interested in the items of good quality that come out of some of the buildings we have been salvaging. You can get well-built, older-era items that are hard to find at other places, so it’s a real opportunity.”

    Remtema considers it a win-win situation. “Not only will Habitat come in and haul materials away for free, but they’ll also give us the tax receipt for what they’ve taken.”    

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