Building Lightly
on the Earth

The green-building revolution promises to save money and the planet.

Paper Work
An inventor turns waste paper into an earth-friendly building material.

Re-using old building materials and furnishings.

Heart of Glass
A man, a plan, a wall--and several tons of wine bottles.

Sex Sells
The "adult-entertainment" business is becoming mainstream.

High Desert Reggae
Root Skankadelic dishes funk and peace to the masses.

Searching for Ulzana
The daring Apache who inspired the film Ulzana's Raid left his mark on SW New Mexico.

Rodeo Roundup
Meet a "rodeo mom," a champion rider-turned-breeder and a future star.

The Art of Teaching
At Alma d'arte Charter High School, art saves lives.

Columns & Departments
Editor's Note
Desert Diary

Having a Ball with Billy
Author on Fire
Tumbleweeds Briefs
Top 10

Business Exposure
Into the Future
Celestial Cycles
Kitchen Gardener
The Starry Dome
Ramblin' Outdoors
People's Law
40 Days & 40 Nights
Millie & Billy Ball
Clubs Guide
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Henry Lightcap's Journal
Continental Divide

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Arts Exposure
Marilyn Gendron
Arts News
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind & Spirit
Tools for Living
Ways to Heal

Red or Green?
Dining Guide

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Everything old is new again in the green world of re-using old building materials and furnishings.


David Mulvenna, owner of the former Elks Lodge in downtown Silver City, is coming to the time of fruition. His massive, nearly year-and-a-half renovation of the old building is nearly complete. In addition to the Ikosaeder Gallery that the artist-owner opened in the building's upstairs space last year, he soon will throw open the doors to his new Desert Rose restaurant. (See this issue's Business Exposure column for details.)

Linda Williams, manager of Habitat for Humanity's
Re-Store, displays some new, high-end doors donated by a local builder.


But as proud as he is of his renovation, Mulvenna seems nearly as proud of the way he's gone about the project—particularly the amount of materials he's salvaged and re-used.

"I like the idea of saving money, for sure," he says, "but also, I just don't see any sense in wasting product."

And save he has. Mulvenna has salvaged hardwood flooring, windows, two-by-fours and -sixes, moldings, "really, anything I can," he says. He did the tedious work of pulling all the nails from the piles and piles of salvaged wood—some already being re-used, the rest stacked neatly in the building's basement or rooms where they might be re-used.

"People say, 'Oh, it's wood,' and because we can always grow new wood they wonder what's the big deal," Mulvenna says. "But our natural resources don't replenish as fast as we fill our dumps."

In the main room, he's ripped out the old Elks bar, pulled out molding and more, and today a young man runs an industrial sander over the hardwood floors, revealing a golden-blond floor beneath the black surface. Paint? Years of cigarette smoke and boot crud? One shudders to think.

Mulvenna gestures toward the huge plywood squares on the front of the building, for years now covering what were once huge windows. He plans to restore them, transforming what was recently the dark entrance to a bar into a restaurant flooded with light.

He points to some resurfaced walls, a checkerboard-style pattern scratched into the surface. The wall is still in progress, but already showing promise, glowing from the sunlight pouring through the windows on the Texas Street side of the building.

"It could be overwhelming," he says of the scope of his remodeling project, "but I'm taking it one room at a time."


Even Mulvenna's brand-new furnishings for the restaurant are, in a way, recycled. He's buying tables and chairs from Manzanita Ridge, a furnishing business in Silver City that specializes in the resale of furnishings reclaimed from restaurants and grand hotels undergoing renovation.

David VanAuker, who co-owns Manzanita Ridge, says, "His (Mulvenna's) stuff is basically coming from the Sanctuary Resort and the Phoenician. His chairs are coming from another place in California."

VanAuker says the opportunity to keep wonderful furnishings from winding up in landfills is "a big part of why we got into this business. We love re-using stuff, and we're big recyclers ourselves," he says of himself and his partners, Richard Johnson and Buck Burns. "The hotel industry has such waste."

VanAuker says he and his partners were researching chandeliers and other antique furnishings from a hotel remodel, looking for goods to carry in their store, and "just fell in love with the quality of the things we saw."

Today, the bulk of Manzanita Ridge's business, VanAuker says, is dealing in hotel and restaurant used furnishings, along with occasional new pieces that have simply been discontinued. Everything—from lighting fixtures to doors, dishes, stemware and linens, from artwork on the walls to the carpeting on the floors—is up for grabs when a hotel undergoes a major renovation. Even Mulvenna's crystal stemware is coming from a remodel.

"Sometimes it's just a matter of a change in color scheme," VanAuker explains. Mulvenna's Desert Rose tablecloths will come from the Biltmore Hotel. Some of the linens are used ones, all in perfectly good condition—and some actually never were used, but were disposed of just because the hotel changed the color of its dining room.

"They never even opened them," Van Auker says. "I mean, why waste it?"


Whether talking about building materials, furnishings or money, why waste it indeed? Such thinking has spawned a plethora of sources for recycled building materials for consumers looking for a special look or cheaper materials, or to actively and consciously reduce waste for the sake of the planet.

Sources for wood from dismantled antique barns, or stone and brick reclaimed from old buildings, are popping up all over the Internet. Several companies offer antique bricks and cobblestones for driveways, walkways, floors, walls and other stone masonry projects—not just piecemeal stuff for fill-ins, but enough consistent brick for entire building projects.

Want an "old world" look? Doing an actual historic restoration? These dealers can secure what you need, even offering custom brick matching.

And while the cost for recycled brick can be less than comparable new products, it's obvious that most customers of such materials are looking not necessarily for a good price, but a special product.

To Linda Williams, manager of the Gila Region's Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Silver City, recycling building materials is a matter of community-building on many levels. The used-products supply center is doing a brisk business these days, with customers coming in increasingly for the bargains that can be had on "perfectly fine second-hand items," Williams says.

Habitat for Humanity can use only new products in its grassroots homebuilding program, she says. The Re-Store operates strictly as an income source for the nonprofit agency, selling donated items at deep discount to the public.

Much of the store's inventory comes from local builders. The store gets first-quality leftover doors, as well as windows, cabinets and the like that have been pulled out for renovation projects.

Williams says she is "cultivating relationships with the local builders," asking them to think of the Re-Store when disposing of materials. She walks through one of the Re-Store's two huge warehouse-like rooms and flips through a cache of solid-wood doors, pointing out a group of three in particular.

"These are brand new, but he (the builder) couldn't use them. He paid, like, over $600 for these," she says. The price to the Re-Store customer? $150 apiece. And these items are at the top of the Re-Store's price range.

Single-pane windows go for 10 bucks, double panes for $20. Less fancy second-hand solid-wood doors start at just $25.

Average citizens are getting into the spirit of giving, too, not wanting their usable goods—appliances with life still in them, windows and doors pulled out for a renovation— to fill the landfill. Williams says donors say they also like the idea of the proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

"I'm a go-getter, you could say. I'm a 'dumpster-diver,'" she says with a laugh. "If I happen to see something good that the store could sell, heck, I'm all over it! I tell people, 'Hey, why are you throwing that out?' Once I tell them about the store, they're happy to give me the stuff. They offer to haul it down for me."

Awareness of the Re-Store as a, well, re-source, is growing. Customers from all walks of life have come in to find affordable items, Williams says. Besides building materials, the store has second-hand furnishings and household appliances. Used washers, dryers and dishwashers sit in a group, not unlike those in an appliance center or department store, but with price tags starting at $45.

Students on a budget, average homeowners just looking to save some dough, are coming in to see what's available for less than retail. "Way less," she emphasizes.

Williams says she likes managing the Re-Store, a three-day-a-week volunteer position, as "a way of paying them back." Habitat for Humanity built her a home a couple of years ago, during a time when she was down for the count with back surgery.

"If this (store) wasn't here, that'd be it for some people. They couldn't afford to go to a store and buy this stuff, not even on sale," she says.

The store also saves precious resources for local nonprofits. The Silco Theater, currently being renovated by the Silver City MainStreet Project, recently secured some French doors from the Re-Store.

Williams finds great satisfaction in matching up donors and buyers. The memory of the sheer kismet of some on-the-spot transactions makes her smile.

"Sometimes stuff never even hits the ground," she says. "Some guy will come with a pick-up just loaded with stuff, and someone will pull into the yard and say, 'That's just what I was looking for!' I've just barely put a price on the stuff, and we're unloading it from one truck right into the other one."

Williams says she also likes the funky, creative aspect of her job, the chance to help people solve problems in innovative ways.

"People come in and look around at what we have, and they don't see what they thought they needed," she says, "and I ask them 'What do you want to do?' Sometimes we come up with solutions they never thought of. People who are thinking about using recycled stuff are already thinking creatively, anyway."

—Donna Clayton Lawder


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