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Tacoma City Council approves study of deconstruction to boost green economy


(The Center Square) – The Tacoma City Council has approved a resolution that will direct the city to study options and associated costs to increase deconstruction and salvage efforts in Tacoma.

Tacoma City Councilmember Kristina Walker created the resolution to aid in protecting the environment and boost green economic development for the city. The city council approved the resolution on March 19.

Deconstruction of buildings is also known as the systematic disassembly of a building for reuse. This differs from standard demolitions by offering a wider range of benefits including lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced waste disposal and less stormwater pollution.

According to Rockethomes, deconstruction can cost in the range of $8 to $16 per square foot, whereas demolition can cost $4 to $10 per square foot.

Common reusable materials include masonry, lumber, light fixtures, cabinetry, roofing, glass, tile, appliances, copper pipes, plumbing, architectural elements, hardware and more.

According to the resolution’s memorandum, most cities find that demolition results in the loss of reusable items worth millions of dollars.

Reusing materials from old homes and buildings through deconstruction also facilitates the integration of reusable materials into new structures.

Demolition and construction debris have previously made up about 12% of Tacoma’s landfills but the city expects an increased amount of construction and demolition debris in the coming years as part of a growing demand for more housing, amplifying pressure on local landfills and intensifying the need for greater deconstruction and salvage efforts.

“Continuing to demolish buildings and throw them into our landfill is simply not sustainable and it does not align with our climate action plan goals,” Walker said in a statement. “I brought forward this resolution because it is time to start working on a plan for how the city can help increase supply and demand for deconstruction and salvage work.”

Tacoma city staff said the city is well-suited for deconstruction because the majority of the city’s structures were built with wood over 100 years ago.

Three hours south of Tacoma, Portland, Oregon, requires certain projects seeking a demolition permit to be fully deconstructed as opposed to mechanically demolished. All buildings that were built before 1940 are required to be deconstructed rather than demolished.

Orange County, North Carolina and the Cities of Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro require certain building materials be recycled or salvaged when a building is being torn down.

The proposed deconstruction options will be reviewed by the Tacoma Infrastructure, Planning and Sustainability Committee by May 22, 2024.