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Four Ways to Benefit from the Deconstruction Ordinance Freeze

On Jan. 14, 2019, the Milwaukee Common Council voted to freeze its deconstruction ordinance until the year 2020, once again allowing the demolition of homes and historic structures built in or before 1929. The substitute ordinance also requires the Department of Neighborhood Services to spend at least $1.2 million on the deconstruction of city-owned properties in 2019. 

Our team at Razed & Found, a division of WasteCap Resource Solutions, agree that the original deconstruction ordinance had some lofty goals that were not met. Yet, we continue to believe these goals could eventually be achieved if Milwaukee starts small with practical solutions that benefit all parties involved – economically and environmentally. 

Milwaukee homeowners, developers, and contractors can use the pause to their advantage. There are many ways to get more firsthand experience and education when it comes to deconstruction. While deconstruction is often seen as more time-consuming and costly than demolition, it can benefit your company, your project, and the local economy. Following are four ways to benefit from the deconstruction freeze this year so that you come out on top when it is re-established in 2020.

Enroll in Deconstruction Training

Developers and contractors can learn more about deconstruction through resources like The ReUse People of America (TRP) Certified Deconstruction Contractor Training. TRP also offers two-day workshops that provide an overview to contractors, architects, municipal employees, building owners and others interested in deconstruction and building materials salvage. Taking these steps will make you informed when hiring deconstruction contractors, and can even spark an interest in developing your own skilled deconstruction workforce in-house.

Explore Less Intensive Deconstruction Practices

According to the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA), there are four categories of deconstruction: strip-out (also known as soft salvage), selective deconstruction, hybrid deconstruction, and full deconstruction. 

The ordinance called for full deconstruction, which requires trained and certified contractors to spend 5 to 10 days dismantling 100 percent of the building – including loose assets, finishes, core, shell, frame, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and often foundation, slab, and footings – all to the highest possible recovery. 

Strip-out deconstruction, on the other end of the spectrum, requires 1-2 days’ time to harvest a building’s most valuable and easily removable components. Materials generally targeted include equipment, kitchen cabinets, doors, windows, furnishings, flooring, lighting, and bathroom fixtures.

Homeowners can utilize a specialized deconstruction group like Razed & Found, to provide strip-out services. The homeowner will receive a tax-deductible donation, reduced landfill fees, affordable labor costs, and the satisfaction that they have supported the growing reuse economy.

Familiarize Yourself with Local Resources for Materials Donation

The reuse economy is thriving in Milwaukee – you just have to know where to look for it. A large population of designers, homeowners, business owners, and contractors regularly look for opportunities to avoid purchases of new materials while adding unique pieces and meaningful character to their design projects. 

Our own 10,000 square-foot retail store has over 7,000 customer visits per year. Other popular outlets are the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Salvation Army, and Purple Heart Pickup Service. Find more resources on the city’s Milwaukee Recycles website.  

As the reuse market continues to grow, more jobs will be created downstream, including warehouse operations, retail, trucking, value-added manufacturing and further job training opportunities. The more the building community connects with donation and retail outlets, the more streamlined the supply chain can become.

Collect Case Studies

A number of tasks must be completed in order for projects to meet the 2018 ordinance specifications, including: completing a deconstruction project assessment, hiring a certified deconstruction contractor or consultant, displaying proper signage, following heavy machinery guidelines, and documenting all salvageable materials. 

If you do embark on a deconstruction project in 2019, we recommend following the spirit of the initial specifications so that accurate data can be collected. Then, summarize your experience in a case study that can be shared publicly. Your firsthand knowledge can contribute to rethinking how deconstruction can still occur, while staying true to the ordinance’s intent. 

The City of Milwaukee deconstruction ordinance has great potential to increase sustainable building practices and workforce development opportunities. Help create something we can all be in favor of: a sensible deconstruction ordinance. 

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