The US EPA reports that a terrace house located in Philadelphia‘‘s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood was chosen for experimental deconstruction.

Long perceived as having little value, old and condemned properties are proving to be a treasure trove of architectural elements and reusable building materials. In a bid to promote deconstruction as a viable building removal strategy, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) recently led an effort to salvage bricks, metal, lumber, and architectural features with lasting market value from an abandoned home in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The project netted more than $7,500 worth of recovered materials.

Deconstruction is an earth-friendly approach to demolition. It means that workers disassemble a structure‘‘s components so that the materials can be processed and sold for reuse. Every brick, stick of lumber, or salvaged architectural detail removed from the waste stream saves valuable landfill space, conserves production energy and can potentially add beauty and historical value to a new construction project.

In 2005, EPA awarded a grant to ILSR to determine cost-effective methods to recover and reuse lumber and other materials from one of the city‘‘s abandoned houses. Among the materials recovered from the old home, turrets have an added artistic value and can claim a higher value when sold as an architectural item than recycled as scrap iron or metal.

A Susquehanna Avenue row house was chosen for deconstruction because it dated from the turn of the 20th century and had materials and architectural details that were marketable, including a turret, cabinetry, and detailed metalwork. The project became known as the Susquehanna Deconstruction Pilot Project.

Deconstructing the 2,100-square-foot house took about 10 days, longer than a straight demolition job. And, despite a few lessons learned, such as the need for on-time dumpster services and the value of achieving an economy of scale (removing more than one house at a time), ILSR and its partners consider the project an important success. They showed that deconstruction can be cost-competitive with hand demolition when there are sufficient recoverable materials with market value to offset higher labor costs. Deconstruction costs $8.94 per square foot, which falls within the range of the average hand demolition cost ($7.75 to $9.30 per square foot).

To date, more than $6,530 worth of the salvaged materials has been sold or directly used by the contracted deconstruction company.

The Susquehanna project exemplifies the type of activity encouraged by our own Resource Conservation Challenge within the national priority area of Recycling Industrial Materials.

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #34-2007-August 24, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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