Reuse and Recycling Opportunities and Demolition
- Disposal alternatives: deconstruction, reuse and recycling
- Site reuse and sustainable communities
You should consider deconstruction, reuse and recycling during the pre-demolition planning. Careful identification of any harmful materials present will help ensure safe reuse and recycling. Deconstruction and recycling firms must be in compliance with state and federal requirements, including any licensing or registration regulations.
Some residential buildings may be good candidates for full deconstruction (rather than demolition) or pre-demolition salvage of materials with architectural value or reuse potential. Deconstruction provides opportunities for job training. It also prevents usable materials from going to the landfill, and makes used building materials available to the community.
- dimensional lumber
- kitchen cabinets
- light fixtures
- wood flooring
To facilitate deconstruction, appropriate structures should be quickly identified and deconstructed to prevent arson, vandalism, or other damage to the building.
- Midwest Urban Deconstruction Forum (Chicago, April 2010) - EPA facilitated discussion among communities exploring deconstruction, reuse, and recycling strategies for removing abandoned buildings and providing reclaimed materials and job training opportunities to the community.
Midwest Urban Deconstruction Forum presentations and supporting materials
- Deconstruction and reuse of materials
EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Innovations Initiative produced several pilot projects that dealt with deconstruction.
- Deconstruction and building with reused materials training (2005) developed a national train-the-trainer program for building deconstruction and the use of reclaimed building materials.
- Deconstruction for Urban Revitalization (2004) evaluated the cost-effectiveness of an innovative approach to dismantle row-house buildings
- Building Deconstruction and Reuse (2002) recounts an innovative project, deconstructing a typical wood-framed house in Gainesville, Florida, and designing and reconstructing its constituent materials into new neighborhood-building projects.
- Find more OSWER innovation projects
One way for a community to create incentives for deconstruction is to offer an expedited deconstruction permit.
City of Seattle's Residential Deconstruction Permit program Exit
- Delta Institute's Deconstruction and Reuse GO-Guide (PDF) (58 pp, 1.5 MB, About PDF) October 2012 Exit
- Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection on Deconstruction Exit
- Abandoned Mobile Home Toolkit
Local recycling markets may exist for non-hazardous demolition materials and land-clearing debris. For example, wood, metals, concrete, asphalt, brick and block are highly recoverable in many locations. Some non-hazardous materials can be reused on-site, in accordance with state and local requirements.
A demolition recycling specification that includes a goal or target for recycling sets an expectation that materials should be diverted from disposal.
- Recycling materials from demolition and construction practices
- Construction and Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) Exit
- Construction Materials Recycling Association (CMRA) Master Specifications Exit- A generic solid waste management and recycling specification for demolition that can be modified to meet the needs of a specific project (from California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery)
How will the site be used after the demolition? Your demolition plans or specifications may include measures that reflect the expected future use of the site.
For example, in some cases vacant parcels in urban areas will be used for green infrastructure or community gardens after the buildings are removed. If the demolition activity leaves concrete and other construction materials in the soil, it will be harder to use the site to grow crops or vegetation. It may be desirable to have the demolition plans/specifications call for removal of debris, leaving clean soil on the site to facilitate its reuse.
This is one example of how the way in which demolition or deconstruction is done will affect reuse of the site. The sustainable communities program has among its objectives the green reuse of vacant parcels in urban and suburban areas. More information about our sustainable communities programs: