• Workforce development
  • Economic driver with small business start ups
  • Increase materials salvaged for use in the circular economy in reuse stores
  • Minimizes health impacts to toxins in the air, water, and soil


Reclaiming materials affects the economy by creating jobs, job training, and markets for materials. It cuts down on the need for harvesting new materials like timber, and removes the need for landfill space. Reclaiming materials reduces co2 emissions. The benefits are often called a triple bottom line economy by creating jobs, markets, and sustainable environmental practices.   

Source: Reclamation Administration

The triple bottom line – environmental, economic, community – benefits of deconstruction is well documented. According to the Delta Institute, deconstruction can offer several environmental, economic and community benefits for communities with high vacancy rates and unemployment. Those benefits include: Meeting Strategic Goals 

Environmental benefits 

  • Reduced toxic dust from job sites 
  • Reduced heavy metal leaching into soil 
  • Reduced waste to landfills 
  • Reduced consumption of virgin material 

Economic benefits

  • Jobs from removing structures via deconstruction versus demolition 
  • Jobs for the hard-to-employ 
  • Resale of building materials 
  • Sale of value-added products 

Social benefits

  • Removal of blight 
  • Potential workforce development partnerships 
  • Potential for workforce training and contractor training 
  • Potential for local reclaimed materials to be used in restoration and preservation of older and historic structures 27.

 [27] “Deconstruction & Building Material Reuse: A Tool for Local Governments & Economic Development Practitioners,” Delta Institute, May 2018. https://2ob80mdcn83q0w4fdbp1fvz2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Deconstruction-Go-Guide6-13-18-.pdf          Source: Treasure in the Walls – pg 56

Deconstruction is an employment multiplier:

The workforce potential of deconstruction does not end at the direct jobs on the job site. The deconstruction field offers a higher employment multiplier than demolition. There are more indirect jobs that emerge related to deconstruction as salvaged materials are transported offsite. These include warehouse jobs, retail and sales jobs, and value-added manufacturing jobs as a result of “upcycling” of the salvaged materials. Additionally, these indirect industries provide additional workforce development and training opportunities. The combined direct and indirect offer more induced jobs that are a result of the direct/indirect wages spent in the local economy. [14] The Economics of Residential Building Deconstruction in Portland, OR, Northwest Economic Research Center College of Urban and Public Affairs, April 2016. Graphic Source: “Deconstruction & Building Material Reuse,” Delta Institute, May 2018      Source:Treasure in the Walls


Lead, as well as other chemical pollutants from construction sites, such as asbestos, crystalline silica, mercury, and arsenic, can also soak into the surrounding soil. This has the potential to contaminate groundwater supply and drinking water which can cause serious health issues, including cancer, if ingested. Deconstruction offers a way of mitigating these hazards. Removal of building parts piece by piece means hazardous materials remain largely intact. Processes like planning to remove lead paint and denailing are done at a warehouse in a controlled environment, avoiding contamination at the building site. Contact with hazardous materials occurs in building removal no matter what, but studies show less risk for airborne and ground seeping hazards when homes are deconstructed rather than demolished. [24] “Pollution from Construction: What Are the Types & How Can We Prevent It?” 

Buildings contain a lot of materials that when pulverized and put into the environment, whether air, water or soil, can make people sick. On a massive scale, the destruction of the World Trade Towers led to injury, chronic illness and death in many people exposed to the toxic dust that the manmade disaster caused.

Demolition of buildings can generate unhealthy exposures for residents and workers. A European study estimated that demolitions composed about 1/6 of the total waste stream. A major  air pollutant from demolition of concern is  particulate matter, an important cause of increased mortality, lung and cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Increases in   silica  exposure occur with demolition and silica is associated with lung diseases like silicosis, chronic obstructive lung disease as well as lung cancer. As one study concluded “workers and bystanders are exposed to high short-term peak exposures for which occupational standards do not exist. Asbestos is a cancer causing fiber found in buildings from roof, insulation piping and flooring  and  has been documented to still be present even after  abatement of asbestos was completed. This is alarming because it is established that asbestos causes mesothelioma which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings of the body and cancer of the lung. It is a  probable cause of  cancer of the larynx, and ovary. Arsenic and chromium, also found in demolition dust, are both associated with increased risk of lung cancer with occupational exposure.

Lead is perhaps the most worrisome heavy metal found in demolition dust.  One Chicago study    found a 31-fold increase in lead dust at demolition sites. Wetting the site before and during demolition reduces the lead dust fall in the surrounding neighborhood significantly but raises the question of what happens to the lead after it is wetted?  Lead is especially toxic to children’s brains and there is no safe level.  In addition to lead, chemical exposures like brominated flame retardants (PBDE) are “forever” chemicals, and health concerns include   endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity and increasing risk of cancer.  Both are examples of neurotoxins that potentially by reducing IQ can lead to significant lifetime losses of income  after in utero (PBDE) and childhood (lead)  exposure. Although better regulations have led to a drop in blood lead levels over time, demolition of older homes with legacy chemicals built before regulations restricted their use, may still be a source of this contaminated and dangerous dust.   

In summary,  there are health hazards to workers and residents , in the dust generated by demolishing old buildings. In addition to contaminated dust, there are other concerns from demolition site waste (run off waste wetted down, waste taken to landfills, waste burned in incinerators). Abatement is only a partial solution. Deconstruction avoids many of these health hazards.