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National Restaurant Association - Restaurants give building materials a second life

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Restaurants give building materials a second life

Restaurateurs are discovering they can conserve resources and cut some construction costs by using materials salvaged from other facilities.

By giving a second life to floors, ceilings, windows, cabinets or sinks stripped from establishments being torn down or renovated, restaurants are easing environmental strain in two ways. They use less virgin wood, metal, granite and other natural materials in construction or rebovation, and they divert bulky scrap from landfills.

National Restaurant Association member Starbucks has made reuse of building materials a cornerstone of its Shared Planet initiative. Where possible, it uses elements recovered from the area, such as gym floors or college campus seating, to give stores a local feel.

Other restaurants are following suit as the growing reuse industry makes materials more accessible.

“It used to be two guys in a pick-up recovering barn scraps,” says Bob Falk, president of the Building Materials Reuse Association. “Not anymore.”

Falk says restaurants appreciate the unique character and craftsmanship of materials artfully crafted decades ago. “It can also usually save you money,” he says.

Falk offers these tips to restaurateurs interested in reusing salvaged materials:

Look for a local re-use store, such as the 700 outlets run by Habitat for Humanity, the charity that builds homes for the disadvantaged. His association maintains a directory of 1,500 reusable-material suppliers.

Test anything painted for lead. “It’s not that something with lead-based paint can’t be used, it’s that you have to use some common sense,” Falk says. For instance, don't put it in areas trafficked by families.

Make sure materials you buy are clean and mold-free. With wood, be certain it wasn’t treated with chemicals you wouldn’t want near food.

Don’t be afraid to tell your customers you used salvaged materials. They might not notice otherwise.

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