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Deconstruction is a green alternative to demolition. Our friends at the New Orleans branch of Mercy Corps have provided us with some information about deconstruction as well as a list of local resources.

What is Deconstruction?

Deconstruction is the systematic dismantling of a structure with the intent of extracting a maximum level of reusable building materials. Work is done mostly by hand, and salvageable materials are sold affordably on the open market for reuse.

Economic Benefits of Deconstruction

  • Job Creation – At least 4 jobs for every one in demolition
  • Skills Development – Most jobs are entry level; preparing people for the building trades.
  • Boosts to the Local Economy – Affordable materials for rebuilding; sales tax revenues for local government; a new market emerges generating income for homeowners; sales support local businesses.
  • Tax Benefits – Property owners are eligible for deductions for materials donated to non-profit stores or organizations.
  • Cost Savings – Contractors/homeowners save on landfill fees.
See Deconstruction & Mercy Corps in action…
Video created by Justin Valls

Additional Benefits of Deconstruction in New Orleans Neighborhoods

Deconstruction reduces waste sent to landfills by 50 – 70%, reduces the demand for new materials, and supports the Green Building movement. It fosters a culture of conservation and recycling and civic and community engagement, and reuses historic materials, preserves architectural heritage, and connects New Orleanians to their proud past.

If 500 homes were deconstructed in one year in New Orleans…

  • At least 220 living wage jobs would be created: 10% salaried, and 90% hourly jobs averaging $12 per hour.
  • Approximately 75,000 cubic yards of debris would be saved from landfills. That’s 2,500 truck loads!
  • Sales of reusable materials could reach $5,000,000 on the private market generating, $450,000 in local sales tax revenue.
  • Property owners benefit from tax deductions for materials donated.

Deconstruction Around the Country

Successful building salvage businesses exist in many American cities, generating millions of dollars is sales and tax revenues, and creating a culture of re-using valuable building inputs. Portland, Oregon’s Rebuilding Center, for example, deconstructs over 40 houses a year, employs 40 employees with full benefits, earns $2 million in sales of reusable materials, and their retail store contributed to the revitalization of its now vibrant neighborhood.

Common Myths about Deconstruction

  • “It costs too much.” – Actually, it is often comparable in cost to demolition.
  • “It takes too long.” – Deconstruction takes two weeks at most, about the same time it takes for building plan approval.
  • “The flooding ruined everything.” – Actually, much of a flooded house is reusable: lumber, flooring, bath fixtures, windows and doors are often salvageable.

More Information