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Demolition or deconstruction? Council to debate issue on Wednesday

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PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - The Cityt Council will consider requring older homes be dismantled by deconstrruction not mechanical demolition (above) on Wednesday.The City Council will consider a resolution requiring that deconstruction be used when an older house is torn down on Wednesday.

Deconstruction is disassembly by hand, as compared to mechanical deconstruction by heavy machines. Although deconstruction costs more than demolition, the resolution says it has numerous benefits that justify the additional expense.

Among other things, the resolution submitted by Mayor Charlie Hales says requiring deconstruction will increase the amount of recovered materials. It will also reduce the amount of debris going to landfills and the release of hazardous materials, such as asbestos and lead paint chips, into the air.

The resolution directs the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to develop City Code language for the council to consider requiring deconstruction for houses built before 1916 or designated as a historic resources. Exemptions include houses damaged by fire and mold.

The idea was refined by a Deconstruction Advisory Group comprised of deconstruction experts, builders, developers, neighborhood groups, and historic preservationists that met 14 times.

The issue was among several pushed by neighborhood activists and others as the number of residential demolition and infill projects increased when the economy began improving. An impact statement with the resolution says that an average of 300 Portland homes have been demolished in each of the past two years.

The resolution is supported by United Neighborhoods for Reform, even though the grassroots organization believes it should apply to more homes.

The hearing starts at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 17. You can read the resolution and impact statement at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=50265&a=564641