This article explores how heritage values can be productively sustained or transformed by processes of building deconstruction and materials reuse, which address the increasing magnitude of demolition waste, landfill and resource use in urban development. The article starts by examining literature in heritage studies, sustainable building, and discard studies, then presents two examples from Vancouver, a Canadian city under intense development pressure, to help frame questions from project and policy contex
Hennepin County has a total of about $100,000 in deconstruction grants available for 2020.
PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL – Workers have started building vertical on the new City Hall building.
Redevelopment Manager Sidaro Sin said contractors were able to recycle 90% of the two existing buildings — a former medical office and doggy day care — that were on the property where the new City Hall is being built. That was about 15% more than the contractors’ original goal.
A 2017 UN Environment report estimated the building sector contributes 49 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions thus making it the single largest contributor to climate change. Globally, building operations account for 28 percent of GHG emissions and the embodied carbon of building materials–the emissions generated in the production, transport, and assembly of materials such as wood, concrete, and steel–accounts for another 11 percent.
Jeremiah Logemann rummages through a storage locker Friday to show off some of the parts from the St. Raphael steeple that he plans to turn into pieces of art. St. Raphael in Downtown Madison was destroyed by fire in 2005. Since its demolition in 2008, the steeple has been kept in a lot along East Washington Avenue, but Logemann assumed ownership of the spire in June when the Madison Diocese was looking for a way to dispose of the 18-ton structure. STEVE APPS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
“I’ve been busy as hell since that day. It’s kind of miraculous,” Logemann said. “There are a lot of people in Madison that either just want art to make their place look cooler or they like the story of the steeple or a barn or they’re philanthropists. It doesn’t matter where their heart is at. We’ve got the material and I have the drive to make it. We can make great public art all over this city.”
Worker removes plaster from a brick wall with a perforatorGETTY
If the salvageable material from deconstructing your house is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, you should not need to pay somebody to take the house apart so that you can give the pieces to charity. There should be people waving money in front of your face to come in and take it apart.
For about six months last year, the St. Louis Development Corporation hired workers to carefully take apart a former storage warehouse in the Vandeventer neighborhood and saved lumber, brick and other materials for reuse.
DAVID KOVALUK | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO
“Each job is like a cadaver. You get to dissect the building, see how it was put together, how it worked, how it could fail,” Schwarz said. “And each job is different. You don’t always know going into it what exactly is going to be there.”
Dismantling a historic barn is an exacting process, requiring weeks of logistical planning. Because the team hopes to repurpose every piece of wood, most work is done by hand, with the occasional support of heavy machinery. “The barn has its own plan,” says manager Anthony Saraceno. “There are always surprises.” Photo by Joe Polillio
Each salvage job is unique. In the case of Pitney Farm, a portion of the grounds is to be converted into a public park. Some of the salvaged wood was set aside to build benches for the park. Real Antique Wood will repurpose the rest. “I’ve probably made 25 mantels from the beams of that barn already,” says Anthony Saraceno, who manages the mill and Real Antique Wood.
‘To me, this indicates the need to further question the current practices of the construction sector. How is it that something so simple and obvious as keeping reusable resources intact and in circulation can have become so complicated to put into practice?’
The crews carefully deconstruct old homes to rescue as many reusable materials as possible, including old growth timber.
With the climate crisis in our face, and the need to keep forests in the ground, Corneil recognized an opportunity for a holistic approach to demolition. He shifted his Vancouver construction business two years ago into a deconstruction company called the Unbuilders, and business is good.
The volunteer group started recycling the bricks from the former Harbour Board building in 2018.
A community effort to recycle material from Whangārei’s old Harbour Board building has come to a close and after two and a half years of chipping, project leader Andrew Garratt is counting nearly 40,000 bricks to be used in the new Hundertwasser Arts Centre.
Ethical bank Triodos claim their new headquarters is the world’s first totally demountable office building. Photograph: Ossip van Duivenbode
With a structure made entirely from wood, it has been designed with mechanical fixings so that every element can be reused, with all material logged and designed for easy disassembly.
“It can be hard to describe exactly what we do because we do a lot! Our deconstruction team takes apart old buildings; our resale team finds new homes for the reclaimed materials; and our Refab Lab crew turns some of those materials into high-quality home furnishings. On top of all that, we provide training and reemployment opportunities to recently homeless men.”
Throwback from 2015.
From the chapel, more than 250 tons of material was reused or recycled with almost 85 percent diversion, and nearly 700 tons of material was reused or recycled from the laundry with a 73 percent diversion rate. Overall, the three buildings totaled 1,717 tons of material of which 1,246 tons was reused or recycled, making the project a successful venture.
Policies worldwide recognize that the construction sector needs to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, tackle the climate crisis and limit resource depletion, with a focus on adopting a circular economy approach in construction to ensure the sustainable use of construction materials.
Instead of simply knocking buildings down and sending the CDW to landfill, circular construction would turn building components that are at the end of their service life into resources for others, minimizing waste.
Imploding the building was an option but considered too risky to public safety.
“You can’t put a dollar value on health and safety.” Deconstruction was a more conservative option but the company did not want to end up in court if demolition caused problems.
“We are already selling pieces from the hotel’s interior on our website. Items for sale include light fixtures fashioned from Venetian glass and French crystal, along with more than 40 marble mantels carved in a variety of styles, including a $40,000 inlaid marble mantel from the US Ambassadors Suite. More affordable items include steak knives ($25), polished bronze swan hook ($45), stainless steel slotted egg spoon ($20), and a steel ice scoop ($10),” added Browne.
Workers from the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse have already begun the deconstruction process as part of YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s long-term expansion plan. (YWCA Evanston/North Shore)
YWCA is partnering with the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse because the local non-profit organization employs high quality, sustainable deconstruction practices.
Homes along Laukahi Street with Hawaii Loa Ridge homes in the background, 2015. The City and County of Honolulu could pass a law to require better use of teardowns.
Seeing the pile of rubbish that was once a house made of beautiful clear heart redwood, I could not help thinking about the environmental activists, U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service staff who have worked for decades in California to save the remaining giant redwoods from logging, while here in Hawaii we are using them for landfill. There was a significant value loss as well since similar redwood boards (8-feet-by-8-feet) would cost at least $50 each if bought locally.
A work crew deconstructs a Southeast Portland home in 2015 (The Oregonian/File)
The majority of council members said Wednesday that they plan to approve the ordinance, and Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Chloe Eudaly said they would like to see a more severe penalty for violators. A first offense can lead to a fine of up to $500 and a third or more can be up to $1,500. “I support everything else, but I think if you’re going to hold people accountable, they’ve got to feel it,” Hardesty said. “This is not something that they’re going to feel.”
“Number one, it’s an economic driver,” said 15th District Alderman Russell Stamper II. “We’re providing opportunities for individuals to learn skills on how to deconstruct, put some money in their pocket, and most of all have a job right here in the city of Milwaukee.”
This was the first deconstruction project in the City of Milwaukee since the passage of an ordinance in January, 2018 which hopes to create a new market for repurposed building materials, reduction of waste and job creation for Milwaukee residents.
Buildings like the vacant row houses in Baltimore can be demolished, but they can also be deconstructed to salvage the materials. The salvaging process requires much more time and labor than demolition. For Baltimore – a city with an unemployment rate of nearly 5%, climbing up to 15% or more in some neighborhoods, and a poverty rate nearly double the national average – this presents an opportunity.
Prasad would like to see architects ‘go for it’ even without the requirements of the London Plan. He said: ‘Circular economy applies to buildings of all scale and all types, and I would love to see it being applied to smaller buildings than the threshold indicates at the moment.’ He said this was not ‘a glum duty’ or ‘dreadful imposition’. ‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to innovate and think in different ways. And the lovely thing is, it can be done on so many fronts. As the name implies, the circular econo
The project will see over 1,000 homes demolished and materials reused. Based on an initial assessment of the regeneration project, the scale of benefits that may be realised through comprehensive implementation of Clarion’s circular economy strategy are significant.
The idea works like this: before an abandoned building is torn down, crews salvage all the materials they can get from it – like wood – and keep it out of landfills. At the same time, they give the people who live in those neighborhoods the job of doing that. “It gives you a new sense of your community,” said Baltimore native Kobe Bland, who works at Brick and Board. “You start to view your community a little different because you see the potential of what could be.” What started out as the “Baltimore Wood
The most interesting architectural feature of the Rehoboth Public School is its modernist, art deco-style main entrance.
“Because of the salvage value, and the fact the contractor could do the work in the summer when there were few people on site, we were able to get a relatively low demolition cost, so everybody wins,” said Bassett.
Contractor Alex Clarke was carefully taking the single-car garage apart by hand, separating various building materials for reuse and recycling, when he pulled off an interior wall to discover hundreds of newspapers and magazines. Nailed in neat stacks between the studs as insulation and protected between cardboard, much of the paper was in surprisingly good condition.
The redwood boards they’re recovering from the library are a wide range of shapes and sizes and they’ll use them for a number of student projects, including siding the first ever CR tiny house. They’ll also run it through the Architectural Millworks class to use as molding and trim on next year’s student-built house, which will be constructed in an historic neighborhood in Eureka. Using this old growth redwood will tie the new house in with the aesthetic of the neighborhood and maintain its historic integri
Poppy Johnston | 17 September 2019
As resources become scarcer, building owners may one day be able to sell walls, ceilings and floors to other developers, instead of demolishing them.
In practise, circular construction is all about the “connections, joints and system layers,” says Guldager Jensen. For example, windows might be attached using a mechanical method rather than glue, or lime mortar might be used rather than concrete mortar.“It’s about being able to think about the mechanics and being able to do it in reversible ways.”
Deconstruction of the Mercantile in downtown Missoula prior to construction of the Marriott. (Home ReSource)
From an energy perspective, it saves about 95 percent of the energy that would be required to produce the same materials, and it also has major implications for waste reduction, job creation, and historical preservation. The Home Resource-led deconstruction of the Missoula Mercantile building in 2017 is a great example of deconstruction in our community. It diverted hundreds of thousands of board feet of old-growth lumber away from the landfill and reintroduced it into Missoula’s economy.
Ever think about what happens what is going to happen to your building design after 50 years?Well most people don’t, and we would like to change that.With so much existing building demolition happening in Seattle, we will touch on designing for smarter demolition.Join us for the discussion of community and carbon benefits of strategic reuse of deconstructed building materials, and how you can go above and beyond typical demolition recycling practices.
Since 2016, one-fourth of whole houses that were taken down in Palo Alto were deconstructed instead of demolished. This means workers were required to disassemble structures so materials could be recycled. The new policy intends to bring the successes of deconstruction to a city-wide scale. The ordinance will impact approximately 114 projects annually, according to a City Council Staff Report.
Everything from lumber to nails is being recycled from Avon’s Hahnewald barn. The barn is being dismantled to make way for a new wastewater treatment facility.
The wood and other materials will be conveyed to Salvage Design Center, which will sell the reclaimed barn material. Given interest from some community members, the district worked with Salvage Design Center to sell the reclaimed barn materials locally at a 50% discount from their Denver showroom prices.
Ruthie Mundell stands among new and vintage chandeliers—all salvaged and ready to find a new home. (Teresa Carey)
“You have a grassroots momentum for something like deconstruction, and you have a massive industry against it,” says Sara Badiali.
The building material reuse consultant thinks regulations are an effective way to make a change. Yet, she has searched the world and “can’t find any place that actually has the words ‘building deconstruction’ in legislation.”
Badiali worked with the city of Portland, Oregon, to create the nation’s first reuse ordinance. Now, Portland homes built before 1916 must be evaluated for deconstruction. Other cities like San Francisco and Milwaukee are drafting their own ordinances.
Most of that material salvaged from the old Mercantile made their way to Home ReSource. Roughly 200,000 board feet of lumber ended up in new projects across Missoula. MRA required deconstruction as part of the Mercantile project. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)
Over the past few years, and with sustainability in mind, MRA has given preference to certain building materials. It also encourages deconstruction over demolition when possible, even if doing so costs a little more.“We’re constrained by state law on how we can spend our funds, but if you take the facade improvement program, one of the underpinnings of that is sustainability,” said MRA director Ellen Buchanan. “Our deconstruction policy is also huge. The city can’t require deconstruction, but we can.”
“We thank everyone for their hard work. We can breathe a sigh of relief that we no longer have to worry about the rickhouse coming down on its own. Now we can concentrate efforts on our barrel recovery.”
The demolition sorting operation at Zanker Recycling extracts concrete, sheetrock, asphalt and wood, among other debris, for recyclable markets. Photo by Veronica Weber.
The new deconstruction ordinance is expected to help the city divert 7,930 tons of waste annually (by contrast, the disposable-foodware ordinance that the council adopted at the same meeting would divert 290 tons). The deconstruction ordinance is also expected to reduce the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 22,300 metric tons annually (for the foodware ordinance, the number is 470 tons).
“For too long, we have not done a good job at construction sites and we need to do that,” said Phil Bobel, assistant director for Public Works Palo Alto. Bobel authored the ordinance approved by city council last Monday. “You can’t just smash it and combine everything, so then it’s harder to recycle it or salvage it.”
Officials with the distillery said on Thursday that they are pleased with the deconstruction of Warehouse H continues with a planned and controlled collapse.
Landfill diversion from offices currently sits at 78% and Google is focusing on construction and deconstruction to contribute to its circular vision. Google has been implementing interior ‘salvage and reuse’ at the interior building scale since 2012. Last year, the company started work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to explore the triple bottom line benefits of deconstruction.
“We have public policies that encourage people to buy a beverage bottle, consume the product, wash it, take it back to the redemption centre and accept half what what they paid for (in deposit) initially,” he began. “We have no such policy for buildings, which are usually the biggest, largest, most important financial investment of anybody’s lifetime.”
Gary Ringer. Photo by Stephen Koss.
In 2013, he founded a company called Eco-Environmental Solutions as a grassroots way to address blight in the Detroit area. The company specializes in deconstruction, the process of taking apart old buildings and salvaging parts of them for reuse. In doing this work, Ringer draws on an understanding of structures he’s gleaned from his time as a firefighter as well as prior job experiences building massive homes in the suburbs of southeast Michigan.
A bathroom tile pattern in a Los Angeles home built largely with reclaimed materials was designed to look like a colony of bacteria, based on images obtained from an electron microscope.CreditCreditCris Nolasco Studios
Mr. Pallrand’s master bedroom is paneled in redwood that Pacific Redwood culled from a decommissioned bridge built in 1925 in Humboldt County, its knotholes and bolt-holes still visible. The Philippine mahogany table, now carved with a mycelium-inspired runner down the center, was hewed from 1920s-era church pews that a congregation in Santa Monica, Calif., was dumping.
The Auckland region is in the midst of a major building boom. Whilst this is good news for new homebuyers, it generates a lot of waste that usually ends up being sent to landfill.
The council is working to adopt a deconstruction and soft strip approach as a standard. The deconstruction methodology sees buildings carefully taken down, bit by bit, to recover materials so that they can be re-used elsewhere. This can include building fittings and fixtures, such as seating, light fittings, kitchen and bathroom sinks, as well as important building componentry and materials such as trusses, timber, corrugated iron, and steel.
Deconstructing history isn’t easy. Turney puts hours of sweat into the process, prying out rusty nails that haven’t budged in more than 50 years.This is the second Quonset hut he’s helped reclaim in the past couple years. The patinaed metal will be a huge hit in his Palmer store.“Some people use it as wainscoting or on the trim of a bar,” he said.
The project wants to build a regional economy network around wood and land restoration, with a specific focus on reclaiming wood, lives and neighborhoods in the urban and rural areas.
“I don’t think (the fee increase) goes far enough,” he said, adding that “there should be a law that you either move the house or use portions of it to build a new house or disassemble it board by board so it can be used.”
Deconstruction of the Empire Landmark hotel in Vancouver, BC, Canada.