Decon Recon: Searching for Deconstruction Opportunities in Gary, IN

Delta Institute is currently piloting a deconstruction program targeting blighted properties in Gary, Indiana in partnership with the City of Gary and the University of Chicago Richard M. Daley Fellowship Program.

This pilot is part of the Hardest Hit program, established by the U.S. Treasury to help states that were grossly affected by the 2007 housing crisis. In Gary, the Hardest Hit funds will be used to demolish a total of 397 homes this summer.

Through this pilot, Delta will select 12-24 of these homes for deconstruction, the process of systematically dismantling a home that allows for harvesting of reusable materials and architectural elements. Deconstruction has the potential to manifest both positive economic and environmental results, by creating jobs and supporting the regional materials reuse market, diverting waste from a landfill.

In order to select homes for deconstruction, Delta’s Martin Brown and Ben Shorofsky worked with deconstruction expert Meegan Czop to conduct preliminary research of the Gary homes online and then visit 105 homes in person.


Flooring from one of the selected houses that will be added to the building material reuse market

Martin and Ben considered multiple factors in their assessment of whether or not a home is a good candidate for deconstruction. Overall structural safety is assessed first, and then the age of the home is also taken into account. Pre-1920s homes were often built using old-growth lumber, which has a high material value. With its aesthetic beauty, old-growth lumber is an excellent material for reuse purposes. Post-1920s homes were built with new lumber, which can also be reused, but does not have the same economic value of old-growth lumber.

Signs of fire or water damage are also evaluated, as these could compromise the materials. The size of the home is a factor, as well. Homes above 800 square feet are ideal because homes with a larger square footage consist of more materials available for reuse. However, Delta has selected a few smaller homes, which enables us to obtain an accurate cost-benefit analysis, as smaller homes take less time to deconstruct.

Delta is also educating contractors in the Gary area as part of the pilot program, training them on how to recognize valuable materials from the homes being deconstructed.

Deconstruction of the selected homes is planned to be completed by November, and Delta is looking forward to expanding this project to a larger number of Gary homes in the future. At the end of this pilot, Delta will develop a plan that will summarize the financial aspects of deconstruction dependent upon different factors, including the size and style of a house. Other blighted cities can later replicate this program, using its data to determine whether it’s economically viable for them to pursue deconstruction projects of their own.

Stay tuned for the results of the pilot later this year, and follow our Twitter account to see Martin and Ben at work!

Support Us

Create a thriving Midwest for tomorrow by supporting Delta today.