New bylaw aims to save wood from the landfill during home demolitions in North Vancouver

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A file photo shows a building being demolished. In the District of North Vancouver, a new bylaw will require wood from homes built before 1950 to be salvaged.  (David Laughlin/CBC - image credit)
A file photo shows a building being demolished. In the District of North Vancouver, a new bylaw will require wood from homes built before 1950 to be salvaged. (David Laughlin/CBC - image credit)

Anyone knocking down a home built before 1950 in the District of North Vancouver will soon need to salvage tonnes of wood in the process, after council passed a bylaw to divert heaps of demolition waste from the landfill.

The new rules, taking effect at the start of 2023, will require 3.5 kilograms of wood to be salvaged for each square foot torn down.

If a house measures about 3,000 square feet, for example, that means more than 10 tonnes will have to be saved.

"It's going to create a secondary market for those products to be resold and reused, and they'll have a new life," said Mayor Mike Little.

"It may have been a tree for hundreds of years, then it will be a house for 100 years, then it will be furniture for another 50 years. It's trying to create second lives so we don't have as much waste entering our waste stream," said Little.

The bylaw is focused on homes built before 1950, matching a similar bylaw in Vancouver, because the materials are easier to deconstruct.

According to Little, newer construction techniques, which often lead to more efficient homes, also result in more waste, since the parts are challenging to separate and reuse. Older homes in the district, in contrast, are often built with solid old growth wood which can be cleaned up, de-nailed and put back into a new home, furniture or other projects.

"We want to upcycle, recycle, divert as much as we possibly can from these buildings," said Little, who said that of the roughly 100 homes demolished in the district each year, between 20 and 40 are built before 1950.

The district will begin charging a $250 administrative fee for demolitions, along with a $15,000 deposit, which is entirely refundable if the required amount of wood is set aside for reuse.

Little said it's possible some developers will see the $15,000 as "the cost of doing business" and choose not to salvage the required wood, but his hope is everyone will comply and the district won't keep any of the deposits.

He said the deposit was originally going to be $10,000, but it was increased to encourage more compliance.

Although the district's new bylaw is most similar to that of the City of Vancouver, there are other salvage requirements for demolitions in Port Moody, Surrey, New Westminster, Richmond and Victoria.

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