A construction/recycling trend called deconstruction – not the literary term – is continuing to grow and could have a significant impact on remodelers and builders as sustainable building practices make gains in the priority of considering community development and building projects. As early as 1999 the EPA defined deconstruction as “the process of selectively and systematically disassembling buildings that would otherwise be demolished to generate a supply of materials suitable for reuse in the construction or rehabilitation of other structures.” Portland, as in all things green, has been on the cutting edge of this trend. The Rebuilding Center has been offering deconstruction services for more than 10 years and was used as a model for recycling building materials in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The grassroots effort to reuse building materials is morphing from a social conscious act into law through the evolution of city development and building code. Locally, the City of Lake Oswego recently required that a building that was on the historic registry but had fallen into a state of disrepair be deconstructed. The owners of the property wanted to tear the building down and use the site to construct a new building and because it was on the historic registry the city was able to determine the fate of the building. They allowed the building to be taken down but required deconstruction rather than demolition. The city is currently undergoing an audit on their development code and planners are considering options for incorporating sustainability into their guidelines. City officials recognize that environmentally sound practices have to be balanced with economic impacts of a building project but cite Boulder, Colorado as an example of how sustainable practices can be encouraged. Boulder requires builders to document how they will handle the waste from their projects – not necessarily requiring deconstruction or similar practices. Look for the City of Portland and the surrounding suburbs to follow Lake Oswego’s lead in incorporating sustainable practices in their development code.