What is deconstruction?
Deconstruction is the systematic dismantling of a structure that prioritizes salvage of materials for reuse. This is a gentler alternative to mechanical demolition, in which heavy machinery is used to take down a structure, resulting in little material available for salvage. Where the goal of mechanical demolition is to remove a structure as quickly and efficiently as possible, the goal of deconstruction is to maximize material salvaged, recycle what is not reusable, and minimize the amount of material going to landfill.
Why is it important?
Many building materials are still in good condition when a building is taken down. Reusing building materials avoids the unnecessary production (and associated environmental impacts) of new materials, and can also offer a connection to the history and stories associated with the previous building.
Not all materials are suitable for reuse – those containing lead-based paint or asbestos for example – but many timber, metal, stone and ceramic components are easily reusable, as well as doors and windows.
What is DEQ doing?
The City of Portland has led the way with deconstruction in Oregon (even creating an ordinance in 2016 requiring deconstruction for older homes), and DEQ has supported this work by providing funding for three projects:
- Individual grants of $3,000 to homeowners to encourage deconstruction over mechanical demolition (this program has now ended)
- A training program for contractors to become certified deconstruction contractors
- A training program for ‘on-the-ground’ deconstruction workers
Both training programs helped build capacity and prepare a workforce to meet the demand of the city’s deconstruction ordinance.
Assistance was also provided to Oregon Health Authority to create statewide best practices
for controlling lead dust from deconstruction, allowing Oregon cities to prioritize the health and environment of their location while at the same time decreasing the price gap between demolition and deconstruction.
At the request of City of Portland, Oregon DEQ completed an evaluation of the carbon and energy impacts from deconstructed homes in the City of Portland. This study analyzed the first 36 homes through the City’s required deconstruction program and compared the impacts of deconstruction against the alternative scenario of mechanically demolishing the homes.