Earth Notes: Recycling the Fort Valley Art Barn

Oct 21, 2015

The Fort Valley Art Barn, located just north of the Pioneer Museum on Highway 180 in Flagstaff, has had a long and varied life. Originally constructed in the late 1880s to house cattle, hay and farm equipment, by the 1960s it had fallen into disrepair.

The Fort Valley Art Barn in Flagstaff will soon undergo green demolition, a process that will reuse much of the historic structure for other building projects.

Local philanthropist Viola Babbitt gave the barn a new lease on life by instigating its renovation as an arts center, which opened in 1964.

A focal point for Flagstaff’s art and culture scene until the 1990s, the barn continued on into semi-retirement as a gallery space and gift shop until 2008. Since then its deteriorating condition has made one more makeover intimidatingly expensive.

But pieces of the historic barn will live on because it is scheduled for so-called green demolition. Many of its parts will be saved for donation or sale to historical associations and the like. As much as possible of the remainder will be recycled.

Recycling old wood is not without challenges. Windows, frames and large pieces of lumber must be kept intact, while nails and other contaminants have to be removed. But recycled wood does have advantages. It’s durable, but has a lower moisture content compared to virgin lumber – so that you pay less for the same weight of wood. Plus it has the unmistakable and beautiful patina that comes only with age.

Green demolition costs more than traditional methods. But it makes a contribution toward reducing the 36 million tons of waste wood produced nationally every year from building demolition.