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Council vote favors deconstruction over demolition for older homes


The City Council approved a resolution Wednesday directing the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to develop code language requiring a house or duplex to be deconstructed by hand instead of demolished by heavy machinery if projects seeking a demolition permit of a house or duplex to fully deconstruct that structure if it was built before 1916 or is a designated historic resource.

“Today Portland became the first city in the country to ensure that the act of taking down the homes of our past has the least amount of impact on the environment and the surrounding neighbors,” Mayor Charlie Hales said after the vote. “Keeping valuable materials out of the landfill reduces carbon emissions and gives people affordable options for fixing up their homes.”

More than 300 single-family homes were demolished in Portland in each of the last two years, generating thousands of tons of waste, most of which could have been salvaged for reuse, the city says. Currently, less than 10 percent of houses are removed by deconstruction.

After the code changes take effect on October 31, 2016, approximately 33 percent of single-family demolitions will be subject to the deconstruction requirement. According to the city, 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.

The resolution was drafted by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, working with a Deconstruction Advisory Group that includes representatives from the community, development firms, builders, demolition contractors, historic preservation agencies and the salvage industry.