Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, with assistance from a citizens and industry Deconstruction Advisory Group, is currently writing the appropriate city code following the historical mid-February approval of a Portland City Council resolution. The vote directed BPS to develop code language requiring projects to fully deconstruct structures built prior to 1916 or designated historic resources. The Council asked that the finished code be completed by May for a planned implementation date of October 31, 2016.
Mayor Charlie Hales expressed pleasure at the vote.
“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. Keeping valuable materials out of the landfill reduces carbon emissions and gives people affordable options for fixing up their homes,” Hales said.
The vote came on a backdrop in the city of more than 300 single-family homes being demolished annually, producing thousands of tons of waste. Realizing that a majority of this waste could be salvaged for reuse, citizen groups and neighborhood associations began urging deconstruction to remove structures while keeping valuable materials out of the landfill, protecting health, creating pathways to construction careers and generating affordable reusable building materials. Currently, less than ten percent of houses that are removed use deconstruction.
Barbara Kerr, speaking on behalf of United Neighborhoods for Reform, told the Hollywood Star News, “There are good stories in just the employment aspect of deconstruction, and UNR is thrilled for this first step toward deconstruction becoming the way Portland removes houses that have to be removed and cannot be relocated.” Kerr cited multiple, far-reaching effects on so many of Portland’s greatest needs, including “…reducing waste and the impact on our natural environment, reducing carbon and our impact on climate change, creating small businesses and entry-level jobs with family wages and advancement opportunities, maintaining affordable housing with materials for low cost repair, restoring our historic homes, and our urgent need to prevent exposure to lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials.”
Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association residents and businesses are witnessing an example of how deconstruction works in the removal of a number of structures in the 4500 block of Northeast Fremont Street. By mid-March, Lovett Deconstruction had removed most of the three Fremont Street structures that originally were private residences and, until the end of 2015, served businesses, methodically taking the buildings apart and salvaging and reusing much of the materials instead of demolishing them and sending them to the dump. The removal of the 1920s-era structures will make way for a mixed use development.
City officials estimate that after the code changes are implemented at the end of October, approximately 33 percent of single-family demolitions would be subject to the deconstruction requirement. BPS said Increased deconstruction will annually divert eight million pounds (4,000 tons) of materials for reuse, create job opportunities that act as a pathway for construction careers and increase the likelihood of discovering materials containing lead and asbestos for safe removal and disposal.
For the past several years, BPS has invested in increasing deconstruction activity through outreach, education and grants. For the past year, BPS has worked with DAG which includes representatives from the community, development firms, builders, demolition contractors, historic preservation agencies and the salvage industry.
More information about deconstruction in Portland is available at www.exploredecon.com.