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This post includes more information from our August 15, 2006 presentation Learning by Doing, Part I: Deconstructing the Kikuchi House.

Be sure to see the Deconstruction advocacy project page for much more information, late-breaking news, learn about completed and future deconstruction projects, and to see how Urban Habitat Chicago is actively helping promote deconstruction in our area.


Deconstruction is the term for the careful disassembly of buildings to salvage components for reuse and recycling.

Atsushi Kikuchi house ca. 2000 Atsushi Kikuchi house ca. 2000

Urban Habitat Chicago links

Jay Wikary of American Barn Company Jay Wikary, owner of American Barn Company (photo: Charles Osgood)

Chicago and Illinois links

Deconstruction of army buildings in Fort Carson, CO Deconstruction of army buildings in Fort Carson, CO

General links

Suggestions for influencing public policy

  • Pass ordinances requiring deconstruction to be considered in conjunction with or as a replacement for demolition through the use of building assessments.
  • Inventory and assess abandoned buildings and those scheduled for removal to identify good candidates for deconstruction projects and make the database of information available to the public.
  • Require redevelopment projects to review building components in structures scheduled for removal to assess their reuse potential.
  • Use government contracting processes, such as RFPs, by including materials recovery requirements, requiring a salvage and reuse plan, and/or awarding points in bidding processes for high recovery rates.
  • Require the complete removal of hazardous materials, and separate bids for this work, for all demolition and deconstruction projects, to level the playing field on this expensive issue.
  • When reviewing bids, allow a price preference for hitting deconstruction targets (e.g. low bid plus 10%).
  • Tie approval of and fees for local demolition permits and environmental reviews to maximized materials recovery (i.e. more recovery, lower permit fee).
  • When possible separate the permitting, contracts and/or financing for site clearance from the design/build phase of construction projects to allow adequate time for deconstruction.
  • Publicly acknowledge the training benefits associated with deconstruction and be willing to pay for them.
  • Support used building materials yards and other end markets for materials salvaged through deconstruction.
  • Assist deconstruction service providers with resolution of issues surrounding lead paint and asbestos remediation.
  • Develop a network of deconstruction service providers and advocates who can work together to overcome local barriers to deconstruction.
  • Convert HUD public housing demolition program funds (HOPE VI) to deconstruction program funds focusing on community enterprise development.
  • Train and license deconstruction firms to perform hazardous material abatement and/or develop parallel specialized abatement enterprises.

(source: “Deconstruction: Salvaging Yesterday’s Buildings for Tomorrow’s Communities”, 1999, Institute For Local Self-Reliance)

Ongoing efforts by UHC

  • Encourge City of Chicago Demolition Permits Division to have a public-access database of projects slated for demolition.
  • Develop website linking interested parties (deconstructors, demolition auction companies, reclaimed materials and salvage companies, public, etc.).

On the horizon

  • Decon ‘07 May 14-16, 2007 University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI - 3-day national conference on deconstruction, building materials reuse, and construction and demolition debris recycling

Speaker bios

Special thanks

  • Dr. Robert Falk, Supervisory Research Engineer/Team Leader, Engineered Wood Structures Group, Forest Products Laboratory, USDA, Madison, WI
  • Peter Godfrey, architect and building recycler, Milwaukee, WI
  • Derek Ottens, LEED AP, Chicago, IL - residential addition using recycled/reclaimed materials, including oversized window-wall from Kikuchi House

Hello out there

If you have questions, comments, and complaints, especially about deconstruction that is (or isn’t) going on in your area, let us hear from you.

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