Tri-Lox reclaims timber from water towers that are being retired. Photographer: Arion Doerr/Tri-Lox
Extending the life of existing structures, making them more efficient and reusing materials when properties are torn down offers one of the clearest paths for decarbonizing a sector that single-handedly threatens efforts to keep global warming within the 2C limit set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The Sir John Carling building implodes as it is demolished in Ottawa in 2014. The former government building was completed in 1967 and demolished at a cost of $4.8 million, but the bigger cost might have been the wasted energy invested in the building’s construction. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Demolishing an existing building, throwing it away in a landfill, is a staggering act of conspicuous consumption. And yet this destructive, extractive approach to Canada’s built heritage has been normalized over generations.
Michel Baars, the founder of New Horizon, considers himself an urban miner, someone who finds a market for discarded infrastructure.Credit…Max Pinckers for The New York Times
Michel Baars thought he could do better than turn it into material for a road. Mr. Baars considers himself an urban miner, someone who extracts raw materials from discarded infrastructure and finds a market for them.
The city of San Antonio will implement a deconstruction ordinance aimed at reducing total demolitions of older, small housing and increasing deconstruction and repurposing certain building materials. (Courtesy city of San Antonio)
That focus will expand in January 2023 to single-family and multifamily housing built no later than Dec. 31, 1945. A third and final phase of ordinance implementation, beginning Jan. 1, 2025, will affect housing built no later than Dec. 31, 1960.
Earlier this year, crews removed roofing, flooring and walls in a project that’s part of a Cornell University study comparing deconstruction and demolition. @ FitchyImages | stock.adobe.com
However, Felix Heisel, director of the Circular Construction Lab at Cornell, Ithaca, New York, told WSKG deconstruction can be cheaper than demolition when accounting for landfill diversion, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and fewer natural resources extracted since more materials are reused in deconstruction than in demolition.
Fast-forward to 2022 and it’s snowballed into an initiative where BARC goes into “homes otherwise set for demolition,” salvages as much lumber, pipe, wire, and other building components as possible, and then uses those reclaimed materials to build brand-new tiny houses throughout the Grand Traverse region.
Baltimore has been successfully running a similar program since 2016, and Philly officials have visited. In addition to milling old trees, Baltimore’s program also salvages wood waste from building deconstruction.
The Lovett Deconstructionist is the heart of the company. This role requires a self-starter, someone who is a hard-working, thoughtful, attentive, service-oriented person who can do everything from the rough, dirty work of demolition to the careful, surgical removal of material such as cabinetry, windows, and salvageable hardwood floors. The deconstructionist uses expert skill and collaboration with team members to protect, salvage, and disassemble all range of structures. Our deconstructionists are team players; they are friendly, safe, and conscientious, creating a work environment that is positive and productive. They work in all kinds of conditions, in all kinds of weather, and perform a brilliant level of service regularly surprising clients. At all times, they carry themselves with dignity and professionalism because they are the best at what they do.
Initiatives include talks with the University of British Columbia Okanagan on research programs, and a building deconstruction pilot program. A city-owned property on KLO Road was deconstructed a few weeks ago in partnership with Unbuilders and Habitat for Humanity.
Each piece of wood is marked with a unique QR codeDaniel Winkler/ETH Zurich
It’s a sad fact that even though our forests are disappearing at an alarming rate, new wooden structures are typically made of all-new wood. A special computer system could help change that, by facilitating the use of wood reclaimed from existing buildings.
Ava Mandoli/The Daily Northwestern. Sustainability is part of the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse’s deconstruction practices, as well as its retail location’s construction. Some of the store’s walls have been reclaimed from other buildings and are reinforced with scrap material.
“We want to make sure we get those barriers removed, make sure that we get the supportive services in place,” Nicklin said. “So that they get into a job, and they’ve got their gas figured out. They’ve got their childcare figured out. They’ve got everything ready to go because they’ve practiced it.” The transitional employment program connects participants with local employers, which allows them to support themselves and their families. The program has a job placement rate of over 80%, Nicklin said.
Why are we still demolishing buildings when we can design for deconstruction? In this episode, Arup structural engineer Grace Di Benedetto explains that we need to change our mindset and recognise buildings as valuable sources of materials rather than rubble.
Good Wood illustrates Portland’s success. Over the past four years, the city has deconstructed more than 420 single-family and duplex homes that were registered as historic places or built before 1940. Good Wood has taken apart 160 of them. Today, 19 contractors are licensed to deconstruct in the city, thanks in part to a city-sponsored training.
A 1940s residence in Terrell Hills is ready for demolition, but before that work begins, Kirt Haeberlin shops for parts of the home he wants to salvage for Picker’s Paradise on Thursday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report
A quarter of San Antonio’s housing stock consists of homes built before 1965 and 69% of all demolition permits issued in the last decade were for residential structures. Taking building products out of buildings set for demolition and using them for repair of other houses will prevent other demolitions in the long run.
Heisel hopes the deconstruction project spearheaded by his Circular Construction Lab and a team of community partners – supported by a grant from the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement – serves as a local case study promoting a more sustainable approach to building materials across the region. The results will inform local policy proposals that, if enacted, would make Ithaca one of a small number of U.S. cities prioritizing material and building reuse over downcycling and landfilling.
The construction industry is notoriously fragmented, with different sub-contractors often designing and developing parts of buildings without interacting with one another, which means opportunities to reuse materials are missed. However, if each component had a digital ‘passport’ which clearly defined its material composition alongside possible reuse options, materials would be far less likely to be wasted.
Manufacturing bricks is hugely carbon intensive and yet today we cement bricks together so that their life is curtailed. Traditionally, we used soft lime mortar which meant that the brick had a life beyond its original use and today reclaimed bricks can be worth three times the cost of a new brick. Considering this as an example, we are going to have to consider how materials are fixed, coated and sealed so that they can be dismantled and reused.
The consultant, Tap International, says the Construction and Demolition Waste Diversion Program Program needs improvement to ensure that the City’s requirements and the intentions of the program are met.
In December 2020, Victoria council voted to approve an ambitious plan to reduce city waste by 50 per cent by 2040. “If we diverted all the construction waste currently going into the landfill, that would take us 10 per cent of the way to our targets,” said Helps. In an effort to cut red tape for companies like Unbuilders, city staff are in the final stages of drafting a deconstruction bylaw.
The yellow pine that was used to build Baltimore’s rowhouses came from old-growth forests, and is more dense and rot-resistant than faster-growing new lumber; a century of oxidation has given it a handsome, dark patina. Furniture-makers and interior designers play up its provenance, designing items around its joist- and plank-shaped pieces, some of them pocked with nail holes and saw marks.
Attic beams at the former Massier family home at 321 W. Franklin Ave. in Naperville were notched out of timbers, perhaps in the 1880s. (Suzanne Baker / Naperville Sun)
Reichert said it would only be fitting to have lumber from the home recycled as furniture since Massier and his father and brother worked as furniture makers at Kroehler Manufacturing Co., which was once Naperville’s largest employer and, in the 1940s, the second-largest furniture maker in the United States.
be responsible and protect ecological environment, GETTY
If you are donating a “whole house” the house will be relocated off your property. Otherwise you are donating pieces of the house. Material destroyed in the deconstruction is not part of what you get credit for in valuing your deduction.
The production building, which covers 1.5 acres of the site, is slated to be torn down, according to an update provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District. Photo by J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune
Building deconstruction greatly reduces the amount of dust generated and prevents the spread of airborne contamination. Deconstruction of the former production building and disposal of the debris is expected to take approximately seven months.
Unbuilders Reconstruction’s Niall Todd removes nails from a board at a house in North Vancouver in December 2018. The company demolishes homes by-hand and repurposes the reclaimed building materials. PHOTO BY JASON PAYNE /PNG
Across Canada, about 84 per cent, or four million tonnes of construction waste, ends up in landfills each year. Even in a forward-thinking jurisdiction like Metro Vancouver, less than one per cent of construction and demolition materials are reused. With the deconstruction industry in its infancy, the pandemic recovery is a chance to foster its long-term growth.
The barn, built in 1912, once deconstructed, was found to have some of its timber from many years before.
Inside a northwestern Connecticut home there’s now timber from an ancient “deconstructed” Branford barn, purchased to match the existing 19th century floorboards. In a house in the state’s northeastern corner, the barn’s 110-year-old doors now live. And, an artist purchased pieces of the barn built in 1912 for their studio.
The IRS now maintains that the Manns are not entitled under § 170 to either the original $675,000 fair market value deduction or the amended $313,353 deconstructed value deduction. The IRS asserts that in donating the value of the House, the Manns donated only a part of their interest in the Property, and that such partial-interest donations are impermissible under § 170. In opposition, the Manns assert that they had a discrete interest in the House that could be and was properly and separately donated purs
The owner of a 10,000-square-foot decommissioned charter school in Hart, Michigan, offered to donate the building to youth center organizer Dana Wilson at no cost. Wilson estimates the value of raw materials in the building to be around $500,000.
Similar to what New Hope Center did in the spring, Wilson’s plan is to deconstruct the building and bring it back to Cadillac to be used in the construction of a youth center. “We’re going to salvage as much as we can from it,‘ Wilson said. “In materials alone, there are easily half a million dollars there.‘
This study suggests that salvaged lumber could potentially be a new source of raw material for mass timber products, which could create new opportunities for wood waste recovery and greener building products.
Salvaged lumber from Portland deconstruction practices was collected, graded, and processed for mass timber panel manufacturing.
The barn’s original floorboards, before and after. (Simón Rios/WBUR)
A demolition crew came in and did the best they could to salvage the floorboards. Their level of care was less than pristine — the boards came out splintered with with huge gouges left by pry bars and hammer blows — but I couldn’t afford to pay someone to take up each board with a soft touch.
Workers dismantle the old coal-fired power plant on the Burlington waterfront which closed down in 1986. The long-awaited redevelopment is removing the outer brick layer of the building and retaining the interior steel framework, the centerpiece of a new city park on a waterfront that was once devoted to industry.
As British architect Spencer de Grey of Foster + Partners has remarked, “…with the increasing pressure of sustainability, of survival on this planet, we need, at all times, to be making the best use of what is already built. So, the challenge I think for today, is to find ways of bringing new life to those buildings.”
Yantic Falls in Norwich Friday, October 23, 2020. The City of Norwich is moving forward on plans to develop the park area around the falls. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
“Reutilizing the building will create a more attractive view,” City Planner Deanna Rhodes said. “Deconstruction will be an homage to what was there before, the mill history, and also will provide the viewshed that makes that whole area so significant.”
Keyshauwn Lewis works on pulling nails from lumber reused from the Flexsteel building that was deconstructed recently.
“We are mining the value in demolition,” he said. “1.2 million pounds of wood has been salvaged to date, and there is still more. There’s literally millions of pounds of material that was taken out of that building and would have gone in a landfill.”
“Once materials – raw materials – leave the biosphere and enter the technosphere because they are processed, we need to keep them in the technosphere and recycle or reuse them as much as possible,” Pralle said. “For that we need to create a deconstruction industry as powerful and elaborate as the mining industry.” Pralle said the success of a deconstruction industry
A house on Vancouver’s West Side being dismantled by the group Unbuilders is seen on Sept. 30, 2020.
“What you’re going to see over the next five years is a rollout of deconstruction policy across the board,” said Corniel. “So, we’re the first of our kind in Canada, doing what we do, but this will be the typical way that houses are taken down and taken apart in the future.”
The government needs to go further with its circular economy plans if the UK is to reduce its waste and make a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to engineers from the University of Sheffield.
Adding circular economy principles to the planning process would put greater emphasis on retrofitting buildings, designing for adaptability, deconstruction and reuse of materials at end of life. It would both reduce waste, and help to reduce the UK’s demand for new materials.
Holly Springs resident Mark Whitlock used his over 30 years of experience in the salvaging business to construct a building from mostly recycled materials. This building is the first new one in the Town Center District.
“All of the floor has been reclaimed out of a building in Pennsylvania, which used to be a part of an old school house,” Whitlock said. “A building in Kentucky was taken down by a fire, so I salvaged about six tractor trailer loads of it and turned it into furniture. I also brought back 13 tractor trailer loads of lights and light fixtures from Texas to use to create my own light fixtures. Every light fixture in the house was made from these materials and the ones I didn’t use for the light fixtures in my h
More than 20 million tonnes (or megatonnes, MT) of waste was generated in 2017 from the construction and demolition industry – more than a third of Australia’s waste production. And nearly all of it is sent to landfill.
To be eligible, the structure must be a home or apartment with up to four units built before 1950 and with a renovation area of at least 250 square feet. Moreover, six material types need to be removed to be reused and at least 550 pounds of wood must be salvaged from the project. All non-reusable building materials must be sent to a county-approved C&D recycler.
The Zippered Pavilion is constructed of Zippered Wood technology, which uses short lengths of waste 2x4s.
Many commercial buildings have a life cycle of about 10 years (think about strip malls and office parks, for example), and yet most architects approach their work as if it’s permanent. “Architects never think about how their buildings come down,” Swackhamer said. “There is no incentive to think about decay.”
The Phoenix Net Loft has deteriorated even further, according to a recent engineering report, and could cause contamination to the Fraser River if it collapsed.
Photograph By FILE PHOTO
City staff are asking council to approve a plan to deconstruct the 1940s building where fishing nets were cleaned and repaired until the early 2000s, but the plan includes keeping as many of the “heritage elements” as possible.
Skanska’s Jimmy Mitchell has been a strong advocate for salvaged building materials for more than a decade.
From Long Beach to Boston, a new generation of organizations has grown up around the deconstruction of buildings and the sale of reusable materials. They’re often nonprofits backed by local architects, builders and environmental groups. Their aim is to build a supply chain that puts salvaged goods on equal footing with new products and materials.