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The City of Portland, Oregon

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Proposed amendment to deconstruction ordinance would increase deconstruction projects

person deconstructing roof of house

In 2016, the Portland City Council adopted a deconstruction ordinance that 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 designated as historic regardless of age. 

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. To date, the existing deconstruction ordinance has resulted in more than 2 million pounds of material salvaged for reuse. 

Roughly 240 house demolition permits are applied for with the City of Portland each year. Houses built in 1916 or earlier represent approximately 33% of these demolition permits and fall under the current deconstruction ordinance. 

Raising the bar

Part of the phased approach in the original ordinance was a goal to raise the year-built threshold to 1940 by 2019. Given the successful outcomes of the ordinance to date, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is proposing to raise the “year-built threshold” from 1916 to 1940. This would result in approximately 66% of house demolition permits being subject to the ordinance. If approved, the proposed amendment would take effect Dec. 31, 2019.

Read the proposal summary and code language revisions

Benefits of deconstruction

From start to finish, deconstruction protects health, creates pathways to construction careers, and generates both affordable and high-end reusable building materials. By expanding the parameters for building age, more homes will be subject to the deconstruction requirements and the following benefits will accrue to the community:

  • A two-fold increase in capturing demolition waste, which can then be reused (annual increase of approximately 800,000 pounds).
  • The equivalent of removing approximately 128 more cars from Portland’s roads for a full year. 
  • More opportunities for both existing and new contractors. (Today there are 10 contractors – or companies – certified to perform work covered by the ordinance.)
  • Less dust than mechanical demolition and increased opportunities to discover unabated hazardous materials and allow for their safe removal before resuming work.
  • Even more opportunities for women, people of color and other under-represented communities in the field of construction.

Public comments welcome

Portlanders are invited to comment on the proposed amendments to the deconstruction ordinance, which include not only raising the year-built threshold from 1916 to 1940 but provide several code clarifications as well.

To submit comments or ask questions, contact Shawn Wood at shawn.wood@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-5468. 

The public comment period ends Aug. 15, 2019, at 4 p.m. A public hearing to consider the proposed amendments will be scheduled at Portland City Council in early fall. If approved by City Council, the proposed amendment would go into effect on Dec. 31, 2019.

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