Revenue from deconstruction and reuse has tripled since 2008, to around $1.4 billion last year. The sector now employs some 14,500 people and keeps about 350,000 tons out of landfills annually, said Brad Guy, an architect with Material Reuse, a sustainable architecture consultancy.
Petrina Rhines with the Birch Group crew. (Photo courtesy of Birch Group)
“We look at the social value as well – we’re creating jobs within the deconstruction and reuse sector,” she adds. So far, Rhines has employed 25 workers from diverse backgrounds, per Birch Group’s website.
206 College Ave was deconstructed by the Circular Construction Lab. The materials were reused in Felix Heisel’s artwork Circulating Matters.
The Catherine Common’s project is being used as a case study for documenting deconstruction’s local potential. It is particularly useful as it permits a side-by-side comparison of demolition and deconstruction processes on nearly identical buildings within the same economic system. The Circular Construction Lab expects the generated data to provide a “much-needed insight” into the effects of implementing deconstruction and developing a business analysis that could address the scalability of the process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For example, cities are beginning to adopt materials reclamation policies. These laws require certain buildings to be deconstructed rather than demolished so valuable materials can be reused. Reclaimed products are helpful for the environment and allow construction companies to dodge supply chain shortages, particularly for lumber. For example, the Kendeda Building at the Georgia Institute of Technology was built in part using 25,000 linear feet of reclaimed lumber from film sets around Atlanta.
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.
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.
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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 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.‘
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.”
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.”
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
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.
“It’s a project started by Jay Troutman to make sure we reuse and repurpose as much of the materials and plants as we can,” he said. “It started with the plants,” said Mr. Troutman, vice president of Fox Chapel Borough Council.
Jocelyn Aucoin of the Canning-based 1850 House specializes in dismantling historic structures by hand and salvaging material that can be reused. – Ashley Thompson
Aucoin sees the growing popularity of tiny homes as an opportunity to find another use for the reclaimed material 1850 House is able to salvage by carefully dismantling heritage homes in a manner the significantly reduces the amount of waste bound for a landfill.
Meanwhile, the ordinance’s continued suspension provides more time to develop a market for materials recycled from deconstructed houses. Selling those materials helps reduce the higher cost of deconstruction.
The National Association of Home Builders reports that 58,600 houses were removed from their lots in 2017 to make way for newer, almost always larger, houses. Many of them were obsolete places that nobody wanted, and the land under most was probably more valuable than the houses themselves. But instead of being demolished, at least some could have been deconstructed: taken apart systematically so their parts could be reused.
“In a demolition project, the entire building is demolished and wrecked,” said Olivia Cashman, construction and waste specialist with Hennepin County. “Whereas in a deconstruction project, the building is taken a part and it’s typically by hand so that process typically takes a lot more labor and time.”
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
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.
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.
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“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.”
‘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?’
“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.”
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.
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
Chelsea Pickett, Stardust’s business development manager, says the growth of metro Phoenix makes it challenging to keep up with construction demands, but more people participating in the reuse movement could ease the pressure. (Photo by Megan Marples/Cronkite News)
A 2015 Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet on construction and demolition waste found more than 545 million tons of debris ended up in landfills every year, even though 75% of those materials had the potential for reuse.
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.
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.
“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.”