Portland First in Nation to Mandate Deconstruction of Historic Homes


A crew deconstructs a residential property in Portland.
(Photo Courtesy of City of Portland)

Effective October 31, any one or two-family home that was built in 1916 or earlier or is a designated historic resource cannot be demolished by the typical bulldozer process, but must be manually deconstructed and salvaged.

In response to the demolition epidemic sweeping across Portland, the City convened a Deconstruction Advisory Group (DAG) to recommend a new policy for managed deconstruction.  The goal was to create an incentive to reuse materials from historic homes and reduce the environmental impact of the tons of waste entering the landfill.  Restore Oregon participated in DAG and played a leading role in the development of the new deconstruction policy.

The average demolished home in Portland is 1400 square feet and generates 42 tons of landfill waste. The typical crew for a demolition is 2-3 persons, while a deconstruction crew employs 6-8. According to Northwest Economic Research Center’s “The Economics of Residential Building Deconstruction in Portland, OR”, the deconstruction ordinance should generate 30-50 additional jobs and between one and one and a half million dollars in economic activity from the salvage material.

To manually deconstruct a residential property, work must be completed by a certified deconstruction contractor. Over the summer, Earth Advantage and consultant Dave Bennink of Re-Use Consulting provided trainings on behalf of the City using the Building Material Reuse Association‘s (BMRA) curriculum and trainer. Earth Advantage is a Portland-based nonprofit whose mission is to move the building industry towards more sustainable practices, and Re-Use Consulting provides deconstruction training
and assists in alternatives to demolition. As of today, there are 16 participants from 12 firms that are certified to deconstruct residential structures.

Restore Oregon hopes to see the threshold for mandatory deconstruction expand in coming years. BPS is required to check in with City Council to report on the success of the ordinance in 6 to 12 months. The Bureau has a goal to mandate deconstruction of homes built before 1940 by 2019.

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