Updated June 2010
After 10 years of research, advocacy, implementation, and technical assistance to promote the development of building deconstruction across the US, ILSR is declaring victory. The Department of Housing and Urban Development took tentative steps a few years ago to allow deconstruction projects to be eligible under HOPE VI projects for public housing authorities and recently made deconstruction a major component to its overall Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program. Furthermore, building deconstruction and resale are a component of each of the green economic development grants given out by the Department of Labor in March. Additionally, Health and Human Services, which first engaged ILSR to explore deconstruction as a community development tool in 1999, now provides grants for start-up deconstruction enterprises in the non-profit sector. Many cities, including Dayton, OH, and Chicago are taking these opportunities to expand deconstruction of abandoned homes and train workers for good jobs.
This is not to say that there aren’t still challenges. While federal funds can be made to go further, through the Neighborhood Stabilization Funds provided by HUD to cities to take down abandoned buildings, many cities maintain a ratio of 1,000 demolished homes to 4 deconstructed homes. Disappointingly, cities that use Neighborhood Stabilization Funds for demolition are not required to recycle these materials, even though processing aggregate and wood products and recycling plastic products would increase profit margins for demolition companies and save the surrounding community $1 million annually in lower prices for building materials. This is an oversight that the current administration in Washington, DC, can change with a flick of the pen.
Back in the private and non-profit sectors, over 300 companies have sprung up in the US and Canada since ILSR began this work in the late ’90s. Interestingly, deconstruction groups are training more existing demolition companies than community development organizations. Habitat for Humanity created an excellent network of deconstruction and resale operations, as well as a manual for additional project start-ups and expansion. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation has developed a deconstruction training program as part of their workforce development efforts. The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA), the trade association for the industry, has conducted one excellent training conference after another. Most recently, the BMRA hosted a training program for all of the deconstruction projects funded by the DOL grants program. BMRA members are now providing technical assistance throughout the US.
Deconstruction is now part of the conventional wisdom and public consciousness with skilled professionals throughout the country. It’s even been featured on ABC’s hit television show Extreme Home Makeover. As Jim Primdahl, ILSR’s former deconstruction program manager, commented, “Deconstruction has developed a ‘pattern culture’ that takes over the industry based on economics, environmental impact, and common sense.” Worker training, equipment, building design and the choice of building materials are all simultaneously impacted.
ILSR, accordingly, is adjusting its work in this field. Rather than serve as a general contractor, ILSR now facilitates the start-up and expansion of deconstruction enterprises for cities and the private sector. Rather than having our own deconstruction staff, we work through technical assistance providers located in every corner of the US. Our working partners include The ReUse People, Re-Use Consulting, Second Chance, Bearded Brothers Deconstruction, the Green Institute, Institution Recycling Network, and the Deconstruction Institute. ILSR will continue to work with new and existing companies to raise capital for projects.
ILSR’s deconstruction web page, which has served the public for close to 10 years, will remain a resource. Additional excellent sources of deconstruction case studies and technical assistance see the following web pages:
- The ReUse People
- Building Materials Reuse Association
- Deconstruction Institute
- Second Chance, Inc.
- Institution Recycling Network
If you have additional questions about project start-up, expansion, worker training, or financing deconstruction enterprises, call:
Neil Seldman – (202) 898-1610 x210 Linda Knapp – (215) 843-7364