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BPS News: Portland City Council adopts new deconstruction ordinance to save quality, historic materials

Deconstruction instead of demolition: Disassembling Portland’s oldest and most historic houses and duplexes will protect public health and save valuable materials for reuse.

deconstruction grant project

In July, Portland City Council adopted an ordinance, including code language, which requires projects seeking a demolition permit of a house or duplex to fully deconstruct that structure if it was built in 1916 or earlier or is a designated historic resource. With Council’s unanimous approval of that ordinance, Portland became the first city in the country to ensure that valuable materials from our demolished houses and duplexes are salvaged for reuse instead of crushed and landfilled.

“Our existing older houses are assets: They preserve our built history and contribute to neighborhood character,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “If they must come down, materials from these houses can live on in new buildings. By keeping valuable materials out of the landfill, we ensure the least amount of impact on the environment and neighbors. Deconstruction reduces our carbon footprint; prevents harmful air pollution caused by demolition; and creates good, family wage jobs."

In Portland, more than 300 single-family homes are demolished each year. This produces thousands of tons of waste — a majority of which could be salvaged for reuse. From start to finish, deconstruction protects health, creates pathways to construction careers and generates affordable reusable building materials. Currently, less than 10 percent of houses that are removed use deconstruction.

About 18 months ago, Portland City Council asked BPS to develop strategies to increase deconstruction activity as an alternative to mechanical demolition. With the help of an industry- and community-based advisory group, BPS has:

  • Established a deconstruction grant program.
  • Been awarded $50,000 in funding from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to supplement the grant program.
  • Developed recommendations and policy targets that are included in the new rule.  

Today’s ordinance follows up on that resolution and adopts new code requirements, effective October 31, 2016, requiring deconstruction for houses and duplexes built in 1916 or earlier or designated as a historic resource regardless of age. 

Approximately 33 percent of single-family demolitions would be subject to the deconstruction requirement. Increased deconstruction will:

  • Divert 8 million pounds (4,000 tons) of materials for reuse (annually).
  • Create job opportunities that act as a pathway for construction careers.
  • Increase the likelihood of discovering materials containing lead and asbestos for safe removal and disposal.

Training the next generation of deconstruction experts   

Building Material Reuse Association (BMRA) will offer a training later this fall that will focus on developing the skills needed to work on a deconstruction site.

Visit the City of Portland’s website,, for more details about deconstruction and training opportunities as they become available.


PSC News: July 12, 2016 Meeting Recap

Task 5: Composite Zoning Map — hearing; Task 5: Mixed Use Zones Project — work session / recommendation


  • Task 5: Composite Zoning Map —  hearing
  • Task 5: Mixed Use Zones Project — work session

Meeting files

An archive of meeting minutes and documents of all Planning and Sustainability Commission meetings are available at

Portland project team wins "smart cities" prize

From BPS Partner Portland State University

Smart Cities Portland Project Team

The Portland Action Cluster accepting the GCTC Leadership Award in Austin. Pictured (from left to right): Wilfred Pinfold (Urban.Systems Inc.), Christine Kendrick (City of Portland), Mike Reich (Sensamo), Kristin Tufte (Portland State University), Kevin Martin (City of Portland), Paul Giangarra (IBM Research), Glenn Ricart (US Ignite), John Gordon (Current/GE).


Thanks to author John Kirkland, Portland State University, for sharing this story.

(Austin, TX) -- A “smart cities” project team that includes Portland State University won the Global City Teams Challenge Leadership Award grand prize on June 13.

The $20,000 prize came from US Ignite, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster the creation of next-generation internet applications that benefit the public. It honored Portland’s Connected Intelligent Transit Action Cluster team for its ongoing work in developing a sensor-connected “smart” corridor that gathers transit data, traffic signalization information and air quality measurements to help local governments make improved transportation policy choices. 

Portland’s team is one of many around the world. Members of the team include Portland State University, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Portland Bureau of Technology Services, Technology Association of Oregon, Intel Corporation, Urban.Systems Inc., SensamoSeabourne, DKS Associates and TriMet.

The leadership award recognizes teams that are deploying technologically replicable, scalable and measurable Internet of Things (IoT) projects. Portland’s project includes the use of a new applications lab at PSU – the first of its kind in the United States – that collects, stores and shares data about all things related to transportation in the city. The lab promises to be a boon to the City of Portland and mobile application developers as they find ways to streamline the way Portlanders move about the city.

"One of the key components of a "smart city" is using data collected from sensors to assist with decision making and investment planning," said Kevin Martin, Technical Services Manager, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. "Piloting a network of low-cost, connected air quality sensors allows us to assess -- in real-time and at a block-by-block level -- the air quality impacts of our transportation system, and how those impacts change as we modify the system. It also gives the City additional tools to measure the performance of future transportation investments, such as the planned projects in the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan."

From BPS Director Susan Anderson: Portland’s new 2035 Comprehensive Plan adopted!

New long range plan for Portland puts people first.

Susan Anderson portraitLast week, the Portland City Council adopted the city’s new Comprehensive Plan. Nearly nine years in the making, the development of this new plan involved three mayors, dozens of advisory committees and tens of thousands of community members. And nearly half our bureau.

It’s a big deal. 

Recipe for a new plan

When we first set out to develop a new comp plan, we looked around the world for the best plans we could find. And what we found were plans that focused on the usual land use, transportation, housing, streets and sewers.

So we decided Portland’s plan should be flipped 180 degrees.

So we focused on people — in all neighborhoods, with all types of businesses, and especially with people who had not traditionally been part of the discussion before. We created a framework to help people thrive — from East Portland to the West Hills, and central Portland in between. And we totally refreshed our public involvement strategy to broaden our reach to people of all incomes and races, renters and homeowners, young and old, immigrants and refugees, small business owners, and people with disabilities.

The result of all that work is our new 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

By focusing on the details, we can think big

From my perspective, it’s a plan that thinks big by focusing small. Big, with big results citywide for housing, jobs, affordability, environmental protection and more. And small, focused on the details of each part of the city; each unique neighborhood, business center and area that needs protecting, from open space to prime industrial lands.

One of the primary goals of the plan is to create a city where at least 80 percent of people live in walkable, complete neighborhoods … with a variety of housing options, strong neighborhood business centers, served by great transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

That seems like common sense. It’s just how we do it.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

The planning success story

We took our first steps toward this model more than three decades ago with the adoption of the 1980 Comp Plan. It soon became a national model, and many of the things we love best about our city were set in motion with that plan.

It’s amazing — the great insights people and planners had 35 years ago. The community paused and took a look at what was happening in Portland and so many other U.S. cities: People were fleeing to the suburbs, downtowns were dead at night, and the car was king.

In response, Portland created a plan that went in a different direction. A plan that encouraged housing and business growth in the central city and in our vibrant neighborhoods. And today, it’s paid off — with a few hundred thousand new residents, thousands of new businesses, and dozens and dozens of wonderful neighborhoods.

So it’s been a success. In fact, so successful, that we’re now faced with a whole new set of problems and opportunities. Portland is popular — and that means we’re less affordable, we have more traffic congestion, and people and businesses have been displaced.

But that popularity also means we have a more diverse community. We have highly educated people starting up amazing companies and more innovation and creativity. We have the capacity to protect the environment and create a low-carbon economy.

And the capacity to be a world class city.

A next-generation plan for future generations

The new Comprehensive Plan reflects these challenges and opportunities. It provides a framework for the next 20 years to help increase housing supply and affordability, reduce the need to drive, protect our natural resources, provide parks and open spaces, and ensure enough land for industry and middle income jobs. 

The new plan also branches out to address new issues … Like climate change, environmental justice and better access to technology for all residents.

The 2035 Comprehensive Plan is a plan for the next generation. It continues our great planning legacy. And it, literally, provides a map to the future we want to see. For a Portland that’s more equitable, healthy and prosperous for everyone.


Susan Anderson Signature

Susan Anderson
City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability