Deconstruction Training in Harlingen, Texas: An Update

The TSTC Deconstruct TeamA couple of weeks ago I was back in Harlingen, Texas, working with Texas State Technical College (TSTC) to train workers in deconstruction. As you may recall, my October 2011 post described this particular training program and the subsequent deconstruction and building-materials reuse at TSTC. You can access the article at

I'm happy to report that this latest experience again validated my claim that, among other benefits, deconstruction training creates an entry point to the greater construction industry. All of the participants who successfully completed the Introduction to Deconstruction course are prepared for numerous challenging building-related jobs.

The plan was to train the students on two of 16 campus buildings and then have TSTC hire them to deconstruct the remaining buildings (8 barracks, 7 classroom buildings and an old gas station), or as many as possible before the budget was exhausted.

Of the 18 students who started the class, 16 received certificates of proficiency. All were offered full-time positions at TSTC to deconstruct the remaining buildings. At this writing, with only three buildings left to take down, seven are still on the deconstruction team.

When they were not busy deconstructing buildings, the TSTC team applied their skills to three other construction projects on campus. In the first of these, the team established a woodworking shop inside one of the barracks to be deconstructed and used the space to refinish some of the 1x6 and 1x10 tongue-and-groove sheathing salvaged from the barracks. These materials were incorporated in the new University Center building, a 38,000 square-foot building that was completed on time and on budget, earning a USGBC LEED Gold rating. The salvaged materials were used in the main wall of the lobby and the lobby ceiling, as wainscoting in the office of Economic Development, on the north wall of the lounge area, and on the ceiling in the seminar room.

TSTC Deconstruction Slide Show
Click image to view the slide show.

In their second project, the deconstruction crew got a taste of renovation and remodeling by overhauling a 2,000 square-foot office suite for the Computer Information Systems faculty. The project included removing old carpet, installing a new tile floor, patching and painting CMU walls and installing a new drop ceiling grid and lighting fixtures.

That job went so well, the College tapped the team to remodel a 20,600 square-foot campus building -- Building B, the corporate training center. The job consisted of:

Johan Schwarz

  • Removing the old tile floor and installing a new one
  • Removing office walls and reconfiguring new ones
  • Installing, finishing and painting drywall
  • Installing drop ceiling and lighting fixtures
  • Installing new office doors and fitting them with windows

Click image to view the slide show.

As I left TSTC on Saturday, February 18, the workers were completing the deconstruction of the last barrack, and all that remained were two classroom buildings and the gas station. Only half of the budget dollars allocated for deconstruction had been used.

Only one of these workers entered the program with any real experience in construction; he had worked as an electrician for a local contractor. All the rest learned by deconstructing buildings under the leadership of their supervisor, Johanne Schwarz, a local contractor and skilled carpenter -- and a great teacher.

New Inventory

The Oakland warehouse recently received an abundance of old-growth lumber from a 12,000 square-foot home built in 1906. Beautiful wood at bargain prices!



At the Los Angeles (Pacoima) warehouse, we also have considerable old-growth lumber. Call for more information.

  New inventory at partnering warehouses:

The ReUse Store, Sacramento CA: Unique old red-concrete blocks are selling for $.75/ea; 15 integrated solid-surface composite countertops with sink at right or left end. Great for production projects.

Specials of the Month

At the Oakland warehouse we are featuring fireplace inserts and mantles. Receive 25% off the price of any insert or mantle in the warehouse through March 31.

The Los Angeles (Pacoima) warehouse warehouse is featuring sinks and toilets. Receive 25% off the price of sink or toilet in the warehouse through March 31.

  March specials at partnering warehouses:
The ReUse Store, Sacramento CA: Good quality double basin, 4-hole stainless steel sinks, $20/each through the month of March.  
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