Politics & Government
8:00 am
Sat July 12, 2014

Is building deconstruction viable on a large scale? Project suggests it just might be

Workers deconstructing a home.
Workers deconstructing a home.
Credit via SER Metro

Wayne County officials say a large project proves that building deconstruction is becoming a viable alternative to demolition.

Deconstruction is the process of carefully taking apart abandoned properties, and salvaging as many materials from them as possible.

The project, led by Wayne County, took down 112 homes in five cities bordering Detroit. It recovered 80% of the materials for re-use.

Ann Leen, Wayne County’s Deputy Director of community development, says one objective was to test whether deconstruction could achieve “economies of scale.”

“So we took it to a much larger level. We wanted to be able to salvage as much as possible, in order to create a return on investment [from] both from an employment perspective and a re-used materials perspective,” says Leen. “Which I think we were able to do with this project.”

Deconstruction isn’t yet quite as cost-effective as demolition, but “we’re very close,” Leen says.

“I think this group has worked out the kinks. And I’m hoping we can pass this project plan on.”

The city of Detroit is launching a much smaller effort to deconstruct blighted homes.

The project, which also involved a number of local non-profit groups, was funded by grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.