Friday, June 05, 2009

A time to break down, a time to build up

Tue, 05/12/2009 2:02 PM | Environment

Spare parts: Metal and timber are among the building materials recycled from old houses to build new ones. JP/Ricky YudhistiraSpare parts: Metal and timber are among the building materials recycled from old houses to build new ones. JP/Ricky Yudhistira

Just as the Madurese people are famous for collecting scrap metal, the Jepara people are well known for collecting housing materials.

There are probably thousands of people from Jepara now residing in Jakarta who are engaged in the business of recycling building materials, most of which they source from demolished houses.

Nobody knows for sure how long these Jepara communities have been eking out a living in this way, but Haryanto, a house demolisher in Slipi, said his father, who started the business, came to Jakarta as a construction worker when the Istiqal Mosque was built in 1961 and the Senayan Sporting Complex in 1962.

As trust itself is hard to build and easy to destroy, the house demolishers tend to prefer to work with their own kind, whether as workers or as partners to chip in to buy a wrecked building.

"This is a family business. Most people who join us here are related to each other. We prefer to work with our own people because the calculation for the materials we intend to buy is based on our own experience and the profit doesn't come overnight," said Haryanto.

The 39-year-old Jepara native said that the members of the community are scattered around Jakarta, but when someone needs workers to demolish a house or more money to buy a building, they will contact each other.

"We can easily call each other," said the father of two, who rents a house in Bintaro, South Jakarta, and travels to Jepara at least once a month to visit his children. "There are many groups and each group consists of hundreds of people."

Haryanto, who has seven employees, said in the case of a big house, he can always seek help from other Jepara communities in Jakarta, or even ask for some more people from Jepara.

In his experience, a house can be priced from as low as Rp 2 million through to Rp 50 million. Workers are paid between Rp 80,000 and Rp 100,000 a day. It can take six workers to destroy a 300-square-meter house in 10 days, he said.

Jepara people are also known for their wood-carving skills.

And perhaps they might all enjoy the Chinese proverb that says, "fools build houses and wise men buy them."

- JP/Matheos V. Messakh

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