Building parts given new life with project

Carla Givens, solid waste manager for Cannon’s 27th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. Dan Gould of Habitat for Humanity work together to keep reusable building materials from being dumped into local landfills. Photo by Darrell Todd Maurina.

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Demolition begins today on the old 27th Security Forces building at Cannon Air Force Base, but some of the lights, doors and plumbing will see a new life at Habitat for Humanity houses in Clovis and Portales.
That’s much better than throwing away perfectly good building supplies, according to Carla Givens, solid waste manager at Cannon’s 27th Civil Engineer Squadron.
“When you have buildings that you’re constructing or demolishing, you have some opportunities for a lot of really heavy bulky items to either go to the landfill or be diverted for reuse,” Givens said. “That’s part of our (Department of Defense) guidelines to look for ways to divert materials from going to the landfill, whether it’s by donation, recycling, or reusing.”
Those Department of Defense guidelines require bases to divert at least 35 percent of their waste stream away from landfills. Givens said that’s more than three times the typical rate for civilian companies in New Mexico.
“For this fiscal year so far we have diverted 36,000 tons of construction and demolition debris away from the landfill,” Givens said. “You can imagine if we actually sent that to the landfill how rapidly it would fill up. We’re definitely trying to help preserve the life of the local landfill.”
The company handling Cannon’s most recent construction projects, Gerald Martin General Contractors, has helped Cannon meet its diversion goals through a longstanding relationship with Habitat for Humanity.
“(Reusing building materials has) been a company policy for years,” said construction superintendent Tim Coughenour. “We’ve been involved with Habitat for Humanity in our home office in Albuquerque.”
Some projects at Cannon generate easily-recyclable products — one fire station project currently under way at Cannon will reach a 55 percent recycling rate largely due to selling asphalt and concrete blocks to a company that reuses them as road material, officials said.
However, other projects such as the Security Forces building demolition are labor-intensive and not cost-effective for most contractors. Working lights, doors, and plumbing may be valuable to builders, but taking them out of an existing building takes hard work, according to officials.
That’s where Habitat for Humanity comes in. Volunteers strip buildings that are about to be demolished and salvage useful items that are then used in homes the organization helps build for low income residents.
The Roosevelt-Curry County chapter of Habitat goes even farther, according to Tech. Sgt. Dan Gould, a Habitat board member.
“It not only benefits us to have things we can reuse and put into houses, but anything of value that we can use at the resale store, we sell to buy materials that we need to build the houses,” Gould said.
Coughenour said his company even donates extra labor to help Habitat. The net result is a plus for the community and for Cannon, according to Givens.
“I think this is our first time where we’ve actually gotten Habitat for Humanity in touch with one of the contractors doing construction and demolition on the base,” said Givens, who expects more examples of cooperation in the future.