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Increasing deconstruction activity in Portland

In Portland, there are over 300 single-family homes demolished each year.  This produces many thousands of tons of waste – a majority of which could be salvaged for reuse. Deconstruction is a method for removing structures that keeps valuable materials out of the landfill, 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.

For the past several years, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) has been working to increase deconstruction activity through outreach, education and grants. BPS convened a Deconstruction Advisory Group (DAG) in April 2015 that includes representatives from the community, development firms, builders, demolition contractors, historic preservation agencies and the salvage industry.   

New Deconstruction Requirements
Based on the DAG input, BPS brought a resolution to City Council for consideration on Feb. 17, 2016. City Council unanimously approved the resolution, which includes the new requirements outlined below that will take effect on Oct. 31, 2016.

The new resolution directs BPS to develop code language that: 

Requires projects seeking a demolition permit for a one or two-family structure (house or duplex) to fully deconstruct that structure if: 

1. The structure was built in 1916 or earlier; or
2. The structure is a designated historic resource.

Provisions for exemptions will include structures that are determined to pose an immediate safety hazard or unsuitable for deconstruction / salvage (e.g., too much rot, mold, or fire). 


  • Diverts 8,000,000 pounds (4,000 tons) of materials for reuse (annually).
  • Creates job opportunities that act as a pathway for construction careers.
  • Increases likelihood of discovering materials containing lead and asbestos for safe removal and disposal.
  • Triples the amount of deconstruction activity in Portland.

Actions to be taken before the requirement takes effect 

  • Draft and approve new code language, including penalties for non-compliance.
  • Develop certification and training for deconstruction contractors.
  • Update permit database for tracking and enforcement.

Potential program additions in the future 

  • Adjust the year built threshold to include more decades.
  • Include major remodels and commercial structures.
  • Provide an option for partial (non-structural) deconstruction.


Task 2016 2017 2018
Resolution at City Council February 17    
Develop code language, training, certification, permit intake, compliance March-October    
Public comment period on draft code language April / May    
City Council hearing to consider code language June     
Code requirements become effective October 31    
Report back to Council on progress   October  
Review / revise requirements     October   

Policy Impacts

  • Based on the last two years of permit data, there were 341 demolition permit applications annually.
  • If this policy is approved, approximately 114 houses (33 percent) would be subject to the deconstruction requirement a year.
  • Historic designation represents less than one percent of demolitions.


Contact Shawn Wood at or 503-823-5468.