7 Steps to Design A Municipal Deconstruction Pilot Project

By Megan Walton

An alternative to demolition, deconstruction is the process of dismantling homes or other structures in a way that enables materials to be salvaged and reused. Deconstruction practices reduce construction and demolition waste, reduce air pollution created by demolition, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, abate the need for new landfills and incinerators, preserve resources, save energy by decreasing the extraction and processing of raw materials, and support sustainable building processes. For communities struggling with vacancy and unemployment, deconstruction can serve as a useful tool as they strive toward resilience.

The waste reduction team here at Delta Institute recently published our Deconstruction & Building Material Reuse Guide: A Tool For Local Governments & Economic Development Practitioners. The guide provides community members and municipal leaders with guidance on how to jump start a deconstruction initiative and remove local barriers that might hinder progress. We created the guide to share how deconstruction can offer environmental, economic, and community benefits for municipalities.

We’d like to share a few tips from report’s third module, Designing a Deconstruction Pilot Project. In this module, we outline seven steps for a municipality to design a construction pilot project. For more detail and the seven other modules, check out our guide!

Step 1: Secure funding

When funding a pilot project, it’s helpful to seek funding from multiple funders (i.e. local, state, and federal government, private foundations) to support the broad range of activity required as part of the pilot phase. A complete pilot will include engaging multiple stakeholders, market research, contractor training, deconstruction, creating a network of partners to accept deconstructed materials, robust project management, and significant effort working with the organizations that are funding and bidding deconstruction work. While it would be optimal to have all funding in place at once, it is more likely that funding of different components of the pilot come together in a piecemeal approach. The most practical course is to first obtain resources for convening partners and conducting market study. The market study can be used to garner funds for subsequent stages.

Step 2: Select homes

Deconstruction experts agree that pilot projects should include 20-50 homes if executed in smaller groups of houses or no less than 10 structures at a time if bid separately. Houses in good structural condition that are rich with salvageable material create an ideal test case for deconstruction contractors, many of whom may be learning on the job. Qualities of ideal pilot structure selection include houses that are structurally sound, have little to no damage and limited debris inside and outside the house.

Step 3: Manage procurement

Procurement is an incredibly important aspect of any municipal program, because it is the mechanism by which cities purchase goods and services. Procurement systems should be revised to include a scope of services that describes the deconstruction activities and creates clear mechanisms to articulate whether or not a structure is being deconstructed.

Step 4: Assure quality control

Clear processes for contractors that require checks at each step of the process allow the project manager to identify when activities venture outside of scope and intervene accordingly. Intervention is effective in the beginning of the pilot project during the contracting, permitting, and inspection stages. The worst time to intervene is post-deconstruction, when the only recourse is not paying the contractor until work is conducted according to scope. In some cases valuable materials may be ruined and there is very little potential for a mutually beneficial outcome or project close out.

Step 5: Train contractors

Much of a pilot project’s success relies upon the contractor’s ability to deconstruct structures, so we strongly recommend that communities seeking to advance deconstruction ensure that multiple local contractors receive training. For communities that struggle with unemployment and economic stagnation, this is can also provide an opportunity for local workforce development and training. We offer some tips for organizing a deconstruction contractor training in our guide.

Step 6: Connect market infrastructure

After identifying key market actors (i.e. local leadership, green initiatives, arts organizations), communities should work with stakeholders to ensure that they can work with these actors to introduce salvaged materials into the marketplace.

Step 7: Process lessons learned

No matter the outcome, you can learn a lot from a deconstruction pilot project! For example, if your pilot program yielded low material salvage from homes, you may want to review housing selection criteria and contractor training. If you didn’t receive many bids, you may want to conduct additional contractor training and recruitment.

If you are interested in learning more about deconstruction take a look at our Deconstruction & Building Material Reuse Guide: A Tool For Local Governments & Economic Development Practitioners at the following link: https://bit.ly/DeconReuseGuide



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