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Deconstruction requirement 6-month status report reveals environmental and economic benefits

On October 31, 2016, Portland became the first city to require deconstruction for its oldest and most historic houses and duplexes. The deconstruction requirement applies to the removal of any house or duplex built in 1916 or earlier (or designated historic regardless of age).  Historically this age bracket represents approximately one-third of house demolitions in Portland. 

Instead of the more prevalent means of demolishing houses using heavy machinery, deconstruction focuses on removing the building systematically (typically by hand) to salvage building materials for reuse. Deconstruction as a method for removing buildings results in a project that benefits the environment, our neighborhoods, and our economy. Six months after the requirements went into effect, those benefits are solidifying with over 6 miles of lumber salvaged, new businesses forming, and newly-trained workers getting hired. 

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability presented a status report on the first six months of the program to Portland City Council on May 17, 2017.  The report details advancements in the industry and recommendations for next steps. Provided continued success in the program, BPS recommends expanding the year-built threshold from 1916 to 1926.  This decade expansion would translate to approximately half of all house demolitions being subject to the deconstruction requirements. 

The impact of the deconstruction program in Portland has spurred the attention of cities across the nation that are interested in pursuing similar approaches. Portland has already hosted government officials from Seattle, Vancouver, BC, and Milwaukee, WI.  These visitors have been keen to learn more about the deconstruction requirements and the robust salvage and reuse industry that Portland enjoys. Additionally, in September, Portland will host the Decon + Reuse ’17 conference, which will feature local, national and international speakers involved in the field of deconstruction and building material reuse.