The 2022 REBUILD Act: Building Deconstruction and the Revitalization of Baltimore Communities


Since the late 1990s, building deconstruction has been applied with great success in recovering valuable and even rare building materials. This has reduced demolition debris, created new companies and good jobs, and helped build community throughout the US.

The following article first appeared in the March 2022 issue of the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA).


Building Deconstruction: A Project of the Energy Justice Network

Stephanie Compton and Dante Swinton, Energy Justice Network, a national organization based in Philadelphia with a long record of work in Baltimore, are working to extend the impact of deconstruction on Baltimore as an extension of EJN’s efforts to close the downtown garbage incinerator, increase recycling through block leader programs and coordinate community efforts toward Zero Waste.

In an effort to keep momentum for deconstruction moving forward the two worked with City Council Member Odette Ramos to draft the REcovering Baltimore’s Underutilized Inventory of Lots and Dwellings Act; the short form is the REBUILD Act. The bill calls for a total of $4 million annually to support deconstruction efforts through workers training, required deconstruction of houses built before 1970 as well as any government buildings, with a specific list of on-site materials management practices to make recovery of materials more efficient and reduce the need for illegal roadside dumping on Baltimore’s communities. Permit fees and the city’s general fund will support funding for programs.

“We are trying to provide the budget resources to quickly expand to address a real need for community improvement on numerous levels. Building deconstruction is a proven way for environmentally sound building removal, developing good jobs in the city and opportunities to buy hard to get wood and building materials”, stated Dante Swinton. Stephanie Compton underscores the potential impact of the bill. “This bill will cut across the need for jobs, crime and recidivism, housing, public health including lead poisoning, climate impact, small business growth and community self-help.” According to Mark Foster of Second Chance, more deconstruction jobs mean a healthier city as workers and families reach economic security. We like to say at Second Chance that we give materials and people a second chance.”

“If this bill passes, we will be able to double our current number of works within a year.”

Mark Foster, Founder and CEO

Second Chance, Inc.

Status of City Council Member Odette Ramos’ Bill

The primary author of the REBUILD bill, Council Member Odette Ramos, anticipates that the bill will be heard by City Council this year. The building deconstruction bill is one part of a larger vacant property legislative package on the Council Member’s agenda. “The overall objective of the REBUILD bill and the broader package is to link deconstruction of abandoned property with other related critical issues such as youth training and employment, eliminating road-side dumping of construction debris and reducing the amount of these materials sent to the downtown BRESCO incinerator,” stated Ramos. In addition to vacant properties, the bill also impacts large development projects as well as building rehabilitation projects. The bill complements the city’s efforts to expand composting of organic discards, which comprise 40% of Baltimore’s waste stream. To reach Zero Waste, Council Member Ramos points out that we have to have a detailed plan for each component of the waste stream.



History of Deconstruction in Baltimore

Baltimore has been a leader in building deconstruction for the past 30 years. The Loading Dock started as a building materials exchange for low-income residents and their representative organizations. Humanim, Inc. specialized in takedown of the city’s abundant inventory of abandoned buildings in order to train hundreds of returning citizens, veterans and other hard to employ city residents in the building trades. Recovered materials were sold at its successful social enterprise, Details Deconstruction, for 8 years.

Second Chance building deconstruction has grown into a national model for building deconstructing and economic growth. The building deconstruction and resale enterprise located in downtown Baltimore started in 2003 with 6-trained worker. Today the company has 250 workers in warehouse management, sales and deconstruction crews that cover the entire Eastern Seaboard from New York to Florida and sends crews as far West as Ohio. Crews deconstruct buildings which supplies the inventory for 250, 000 sq ft of display area. The warehouse is a treasure trove for self-help homeowners as well as builders looking for old, superior quality wood planks that are no longer available from traditional supply chains. The vast majority of Second Chance workers were recruited from the city’s hard to employ residents. The company is known for recycling people as well as building materials as the training prepares individuals for good paying jobs with benefits and readily available advancement opportunities. A company goal is to help 20% of its workers each year move into better jobs in the company or in the industry.

Second Chance has become a landmark for individual shoppers and small rehab companies. Most recently, Second Chance has become a date night destination: Lots of fun for Zero Waste customers.

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.