WHAT IS HAPPENING? The city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is accepting public comment through Thursday, Aug. 15, on a proposal to the number of homes planned for redevelopment that must be deconstructed instead of demolished. Deconstruction reduces waste and airborne contaminants caused by demolition, but increases housing costs slightly because it is more expensive and takes longer.
WHAT WOULD CHANGE? In 2016, the City Council required that residential redevelopment projects deconstruct rather than demolish houses and duplexes that were built in 1916 or earlier, or that are designated as historic regardless of age. The bureau says that such homes account for roughly 33% of the 240 that are torn down every year in Portland. The bureau estimates the requirement has so far resulted in more than 2 million pounds of material salvaged for reuse.
The bureau now wants to expand the requirement to houses and duplexes built in 1940 or earlier. The bureau estimates the requirement would apply to approximately 66% of homes torn down every year.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? The bureau says that deconstruction protects health, creates pathways to construction careers and generates both affordable and high-end reusable building materials. It says the change would: create a two-fold increase in capturing demolition waste, which then can be reused (annual increase of approximately 800,000 pounds); remove the equivalent of approximately 128 more cars from Portland's roads for a full year; and create more opportunities for both existing and new deconstruction contractors, including businesses owned by and employing women, people of color and other under-represented communities in the field of construction. Since the requirement was first created, the number of certified deconstruction companies in Portland has increased from two to 10.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS? The bureau admits that deconstruction costs more than demolition, although the cost difference is coming down. Contractors confirm deconstruction costs thousands of dollars more than demolition and also takes longer, in part because of the still-limited number of certified companies. The additional cost is a relatively small percent of the total price of a finished home, however.
A public hearing to consider the proposed amendments will be scheduled at Portland City Council in early fall. If approved by the City Council, the proposed amendment would go into effect on Dec. 31, 2019.
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