UNITED NEIGHBORHOODS FOR REFORM (UNR) POSITION ON DECONSTRUCTION OF DEMOLISHED HOUSES IN PORTLAND

Received from UNR (United Neighborhoods for Reform) today:

 

Houses to be demolished can be torn down by a backhoe or deconstructed by hand. A resolution about deconstruction of houses will be considered by City Council on Wednesday, February 17 at 2:30pm. This resolution is the work of the city’s Deconstruction Advisory Group, led by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.  Barbara Kerr, a member of UNR and experienced regarding deconstruction issues, has been an invited member of city’s Deconstruction Advisory Group.

 

For details of this resolution see: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/563095T

 

The following is information about deconstruction and the position UNR is taking on this issue.

 

We request your written and/or verbal testimony to City Council about this resolution. cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov.  If you live near a house that was deconstructed or demolished, your testimony would be especially important.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT DECONSTRUCTION

DEFINITION:

  • Deconstruction is the systematic dismantling of a building in the reverse order it was built in order to maximize reuse of the materials, usually done manually.
  • Hybrid deconstruction is assisting the manual dismantling with the use of some mechanical equipment but still with the purpose of maximizing materials reuse.
  • Deconstruction is a form of demolition and is not a substitute for minimizing demolitions. Deconstruction saves materials but not houses or neighborhoods. It is a sustainable alternative only when a building must be removed and cannot be relocated.

BENEFITS OF DECONSTRUCTION:

  • Eliminates exposure to hazardous materials: DEQ requires abatement of hazardous materials (hazmat) and states that the only way to successfully abate is to hand deconstruct.
  • Can be monitored better, and more easily enforced for safety and hazmat issues than mechanical demolition.
  • Minimizes use of raw materials, especially new lumber from currently growing trees.
  • Minimizes the carbon footprint of buildings by avoiding the manufacture and transportation of new materials.
  • Provides better quality materials for re-use, especially old-growth wood.
  • Creates significantly more jobs, especially entry-level.
  • Makes home ownership more affordable and accessible by providing easy access to low-cost materials for repair of existing homes.
  • Preserves artifacts of history, such as period window frames, and provides materials with character.

BUSINESS RESPONSE TO MANDATORY DECONSTRUCTION EXPECTED BY UNR

After talking to deconstruction business members and other DAG participants, UNR expects the following business outcomes from the construction and deconstruction businesses:

  • There is a reuse and adaptive reuse market for used building materials, especially old-growth wood.
  • When the work is there, existing deconstruction businesses will expand, existing salvage, abatement, and construction companies will adapt and become deconstruction companies, and new businesses will start up.
  • Businesses have always been able to find success within industry regulations. And we know in the building industry those regulations change frequently.
  • Once the regulation is in place, the deconstruction workforce will grow to meet demand.  Training programs are already available and will be incorporated into local training to ensure safety and quality of work.
  • With the increased public concern, developers will need to deconstruct in order to more completely abate and contain asbestos, lead, and other hazardous materials.

UNR POSITION ON CURRENT DECONSTRUCTION ADVISORY GROUP RESOLUTION

The resolution to be presented to City Council on February 17, 2016 is imperfect. It is a beginning in the right direction for the City’s eventual requirement of mandatory deconstruction for all houses to be demolished. Despite the imperfections in the resolution, in the effort to get support from City Council to move forward to eventual wide spread required deconstruction, we are supporting the resolution as written.

However, we ask the Council to amend the resolution to compress the timeline and more quickly expand the date requirement to affect more houses.  Even though UNR is supporting the above resolution, it is UNR’s position that the timeline proposed in the resolution for mandatory deconstruction is too slow because of the urgent and frequent threat to public safety from the asbestos and lead dust produced by mechanical demolition.  The requirement of deconstruction needs to be reviewed after six months, expanded to houses built before 1930 within a year, and be applied within two years to all demolitions in the city, except in the rare cases when deconstruction cannot be performed safely. In terms of the public’s exposure to hazardous materials, lack of marketable or reusable materials is not a valid reason for exempting deconstruction.

To accomplish this, the City must:

1) Expect and support the development community to build capacity for deconstruction.  The City needs to do what it can to support the deconstruction industry’s ability to meet demand, but it is the developers’ responsibility, not the public’s, to ameliorate the negative effects of demolitions on the neighbors’ safety. Any potential lack of capacity by the deconstruction industry to meet the demand for services would be treated the same as the inability of any other building trade to keep up with demand and, therefore, the requirement to deconstruct would not be suspended.

2) Establish a cooperative, regulatory relationship with the OHA and DEQ to protect the public from exposure to asbestos, lead, mercury, and other hazardous materials by requiring demolitions to be performed via deconstruction within the building permit process.

UNR is asking for the timeline outlined in the resolution to be sped up, not for the idea of mandatory deconstruction to fail. Deconstruction makes sense: the protection of the health of our community and environment demands mandatory deconstruction now.

 

 

We request your written and/or verbal testimony to City Council about this resolution. cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov