Which Buildings are “Worth” Disassembling? An Analysis of American Deconstruction Ordinances

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Construction and demolition (C&D) waste represents the single largest waste stream in the United States. 90% of C&D waste is produced at a structure’s end-of-life through conventional mechanical demolition, which renders materials valueless, effectively wasting their embodied carbon while also producing harmful airborne toxins. Alternatively, structural removal through deconstruction produces comparatively less waste and other negative externalities. As deconstruction has gained popularity in the US, four cities have produced ordinances that require some buildings to be deconstructed: Portland (2016), Milwaukee (2017), Palo Alto (2019), and San Antonio (2022). Through interviews with local representatives, analysis of ordinance language, and review of city progress reports, this research explores the origins of the ordinances, the thinking that shaped them, and their eventual outcomes. This work provides a survey of American ordinances, challenges prevailing assumptions, and provides recommendations for other municipalities considering deconstruction.

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2023-05-17
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Waste; Demolition; Deconstruction; Built Environment; Embodied Carbon
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Government Document
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Attribution 4.0 International
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