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    • August 13, 2009

      WiRED and Sigma Deconstruct a Gas Station

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      • by blair

      Premium content from The Business Journal

      Date: Sunday, August 16, 2009, 11:00pm CDT – Last Modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009, 5:52pm CDT

      As an environmental engineer, Bob Peschel has been hired to handle everything from designing and building a bike-and-hike trail along the Milwaukee River to overseeing the emergency response team cleaning up a PCB spill.

      Peschel’s latest project was managing the “deconstruction” last month of the former Matt Rech gasoline and service station that straddled the Shorewood and Whitefish Bay border. By deconstructing the station, virtually all bricks, pipes, equipment, concrete, shingles and wiring used to build the station in the early 1960s were recycled.

      Deconstruction of a structure is the alternative to demolition and depositing the debris in a landfill, said Peschel, who works for The Sigma Group, Milwaukee.

      The former gas station in the 4500 block of North Oakland Avenue, a 31,000-square-foot parcel that’s split evenly between the two municipalities, is being redeveloped by WiRED Properties, Milwaukee. The property will become a four-story, mixed-use building with 28 apartments on the upper floors and about 11,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.

      The dismantling of the commercial property was one of the first deconstruction projects undertaken by Peschel’s deconstruction team. It is more common in the Milwaukee area to find firms deconstructing single-family homes and selling the construction materials.

      The village of Shorewood encouraged WiRED Properties to deconstruct instead of demolish the building and haul the material to a landfill, said Chris Swartz, Shorewood’s village manager. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided a grant of more than $100,000 to help remediate the property.

      More than 90 percent of the plumbing, wiring, pavement and other building materials were recycled.

      “This is one example of how we are working with developers to find greener ways to redevelop the village,” Swartz said.

      Peschel answered questions from The Business Journal’s Pete Millard via e-mail about the deconstruction process and what can be done to encourage more deconstruction in the future.

      Why was the Shorewood gas station a successful deconstruction project?

      “Good planning with a clear target. Managing the environmentally sensitive materials such as asbestos, mercury-containing devices, petroleum products in advance of deconstruction reduces the risk for contamination and optimizes the recovery of items for reuse and recycling. Also important is identifying outlets for recovered equipment, furnishings and fixtures. As it turned out, several convenience store and automobile mechanic shop owners were approached about salvaging equipment that would be useful to them.”

      What was the most difficult aspect of the Shorewood project and how did you overcome the potential problems?

      “This was a relatively straightforward project. However, the biggest concern was probably being mindful of the residential neighbors and the businesses in close proximity to minimize disruption. The solutions were to erect a good fence and remove the building and structures quickly.”

      There appears to be more single-family home deconstruction projects in the works compared with commercial properties. What must change in the marketplace to allow for more commercial deconstruction?

      “We need more outlets for recovered building materials such as used plate glass, wood molding, doors, windows for resale or reuse in the Milwaukee area.”

      Is Sigma Group looking for or bidding on more commercial deconstruction deals, and on average, how much more expensive is a deconstruction job compared with an average demolition job?

      “Deconstruction requires more labor to properly remove items intact so they can be readily reused. Generally, there is a premium of 10 percent to 15 percent for this approach, which may be offset with more cash value for the recovered items if there is a market.”

      Are you able to find enough capable or experienced workers to handle future deconstruction jobs?

      “The work force is available, but we need more of an emphasis on removing and recovering building materials at the site as well as refurbishing and marketing these items for another use.”

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