Update on Building Deconstruction Initiatives in Several U.S. Cities

Date: 3 May 2021 | posted in: waste - deconstruction, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Several U.S. cities have new building deconstruction initiatives. These programs have several benefits, including reducing the amount of demolition waste that ends up in landfills and, whenever possible, reusing materials from buildings that need to be torn down. This is a brief update on these measures from Pittsburgh, San Antonio and other cities across the country.


Pittsburgh is intent on spurring the potential recovery, recycling and reuse of materials from certain city-owned condemned structures. Anticipated benefits for the city include:

  • Removing blight from neighborhoods
  • Decreasing waste sent to landfills
  • Advancing climate action goals
  • Opening opportunities for job training.

“Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order, which created a process for identifying and assessing structures potentially eligible for sustainable deconstruction, with particular focus on historically Black business districts and low-income communities.

There are currently more than 1,700 condemned structures in Pittsburgh. A pilot program this year on deconstruction of city-owned properties. The city’s deconstruction plan also include plans to create material recovery standards for city-funded demolitions. The city hopes to begin deconstruction projects in the fall 2021.

The deconstruction program is central to Pittsburgh’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2003 levels come 2030. That includes a zero waste goal, or 100% diversion of waste from landfills, by that same year. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, construction and demolition (C&D) waste accounts for nearly 18% of the state’s municipal waste stream.”

See more in the Smart Cities Dive brief here

San Antonio, TX

Most recently San Antonio, TX has completed a comprehensive report, The Treasure in the Walls, in support on new deconstruction policies.

The report covers the potential employment and wage, environmental and social and environmental impacts of deconstruction under a citywide deconstruction ordinance.

Recommendations for next steps include financial incentives, enterprise incubator policy and local and regional partnerships.

Also see:  https://www.sanantonio.gov/historic/CurrentProjects/Deconstruction

Innovative deconstruction programs and enterprises in other US cities include:

Portland, OR The City of Portland

Milwaukee, WI The City of Milwaukee

Baltimore, MD  Second Chance, Humanism, and The Loading Dock



Photo Credit: Photo by jim gade on Unsplash





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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.