What is deconstruction?

Deconstruction is the process of carefully dismantling structures component by component in order to harvest materials to be salvaged for reuse.

Why do we need a deconstruction ordinance?

When a building is demolished, we lose the ability to maximize the recoverable value of materials within it. Demolition also leads to the dispersal of toxics into the surrounding air, water, and soil.

What does “REBUILD” stand for? (the name of the bill)

REcovering Baltimore’s Underutilized Inventory of Lots and Dwellings

What would the REBUILD Act do?

  1. Prioritize deconstruction over normal demolition in cases where it makes sense, as outlined in the bill
  2. Establish a permanent deconstruction program
  3. Increase permit fees for demolition
  4. Create a training program for decon certification
  5. Establish a rebate program for deconstruction contractors
  6. Establish a grant program for new and existing businesses
  7. Create an app that maps out decon contractors, abatement companies, businesses that accept reclaimed materials, and where deconstruction is happening

Which buildings qualify for deconstruction under the REBUILD Act?

Homes and buildings built 1970 and prior, and that are safe to enter, or can be stabilized for entry, will qualify for deconstruction over demolition. (Deconstruction can only be prioritized if it can be done so safely)

Why 1970 and prior?

Homes and buildings around this time typically were built with higher-quality material. This doesn’t mean homes and buildings built 1971 and later cannot be deconstructed – just that they are not our initial target in the bill. 

How will this be done safely?

Lead, asbestos, and other toxics abatement happens first. Existing companies will need to be hired to complete the work. If more toxics are discovered as the deconstruction project is underway, work will cease until more abatement can be completed. Project workers will be required to wear safety equipment that meet OSHA requirements.

Why focus on the Construction and Demolition waste stream?

C&D accounts for a large section of the waste stream. According to the Less Waste, Better Baltimore report, approximately 319,000 tons are produced in the city annually.

Where will the materials go?

Materials reclaimed will follow the deconstruction hierarchy. (see image)

The bill provides grants for expanding existing businesses and supporting new businesses to handle the increased inventory of reclaimed material. There are a plethora of types of businesses that can use the material, whether in a new building, public benches, art, musical instruments, and more!

How will this impact illegal dumping?

By adding value to the items removed from a home, The REBUILD Act will minimize home and building materials that will be illegally dumped because these materials have value and dumping would be like throwing away money on the street. The bill will connect materials with people that will buy reusable materials for resale.

What about hazardous material?

Hazardous material (hazmat) goes to a hazardous material landfill. 

What are the economic benefits of deconstruction?

Deconstruction is a job creator, providing a new avenue of workforce training, and adding secondary materials to the market. It also reduces the amount of material going to landfills or other waste sites with no plan for reuse. These are green collar jobs that Baltimore needs. Deconstruction also makes room for new buildings or ideas for the impacted community, and we want those communities to play the lead role in determining the future use of that land. 

Note- Low cost reclaimed materials helps people keep up the maintenance on their homes – like being able to upgrade windows, doors, etc., which translates into higher home values and energy savings. Reclaimed materials also enable landlords to upgrade rental properties in the same way and contributes to safer and abundant affordable housing. 

Does it cost more to deconstruct instead of demolish? 

Deconstruction is more labor intensive, and therefore has more overhead costs. However, the externalized costs on demolition include impacts on public health, which are not accounted for in the cost of demolition. Deconstruction also has a broader, more significant impact on the economy than demolition. 

How long does it take on average for a deconstruction project versus a demolition project?

Demolition usually takes one day, while deconstruction can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks.

What kind of businesses could be created with the materials recovered?

So many businesses! Brick washers, furniture makers, repair shops, expansion of reuse/secondhand shops, artists in jewelry-making and home goods; Artistic creativity is endless. 

Will there be incentives/disincentives for demolition companies to move to more deconstruction?

Cost of demolition permits will go up to assist in facilitating the deconstruction program – from $500/unit to $2,500/unit

Current C&D contractors, once they have acquired deconstruction certification, can get rebates upon completion of the deconstruction project – up to $2,500/unit 

How will demolition companies learn how to do deconstruction?

The city will put out a bid for a firm to lead the deconstruction certification program. At least one employee of a demolition firm will need to be certified in deconstruction for the firm to be recognized as a certified deconstruction contractor by the city.  

But Baltimore’s vacant houses have no value.

The externalized values of a  vacant home – and a community, by extension – are not accounted for in this common “value” assessment. In actuality, there is great value in recovering what’s left in the buildings, and using the materials in more outside-the-box ways. We are a resourceful city, and deconstruction fits right in.

Additionally, there is great value in creating living wage jobs from deconstructing the vacants over demolishing or leaving them derelict. The direct and indirect economic impact on a community is stronger when we deconstruct.

Will the city help facilitate new businesses to use the materials?

Yes, there is a 10-year grant fund built into the REBUILD Act that would provide 10 grants of up to $15,000 annually for businesses that are startups or younger than two years old, and 10 grants of up to $7,500 for businesses that are over two years old.

What is the deconstruction hierarchy?

The deconstruction hierarchy prioritizes the highest and best use of reclaimed materials, minimizing the amount of materials going to landfills.
(See image)

Just how many different materials are in a house anyway? 

So many! Consider the following list, which includes exterior materials:

Refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers

Architectural Details
Columns, fireplaces, mantels, moldings

Clay bricks, concrete precast, aerated blocks, stone blocks


Structural concrete, cinder blocks, asphalt pavement, washout from mixer trucks

Electrical Equipment
Circuit breakers, breaker boxes, switches

Existing vegetation
Shrubs, small trees, plants, sod

Finished Goods
Doors, windows, cabinets, countertops

Gates and Railings
Security gates, decorated gates, and handrails

Windows, structural glass, mirrors

HVAC ducts, AC units, furnaces

Land-Clearing Debris
Stumps, branches, yard waste

Light fixtures, tracks

Piping, aluminum siding, banding, wire, cable, rebar, frames, metal shelves, metal cabinets, hardware/fasteners

Cardboard, office paper, newspaper

Pails and containers, plastic film, pipes

Sinks, faucets, tubs, shower stalls, fixtures

Non-Wood Flooring

Carpet, linoleum, ceramic tile, vinyl tile

Forming lumber, dimensional lumber, painted wood, pallets, flooring

Not every vacant will have all of these materials, but they all have materials of some reuse value.