The Deconstruction Institute (www.deconstructioninstitute.com) has organized the benefits that accrue from deconstructing a building rather than demolishing it into four categories. Here are some amazing figures regarding the first two, Land Use and Economic factors.

Land Use

According to the Institute, the timber industry is the single largest user of land in the U.S., outdistancing even agriculture in the acreage it consumes.

Deconstructing a 1,800 square foot home would result in a harvest of 5,400 board feet of lumber which could be reused in new buildings.  This is equivalent to the amount of lumber from harvesting about 30 trees and which needed about 9 acres of land to grow to marketable size.

When that 1,800 square foot house is demolished it will result in 7,580 cubic feet of unusable debris which will consume an equal of space in a landfill where some of it will never totally decompose.  This exacerbates an existing problem as cities and towns face the problem of creating new landfills as old ones fill or are closed by the EPA because of outmoded containment methods.


Economic

We already mentioned that more of each dollar spent on deconstruction goes to wages than does the demolition dollar thus resulting in more work at a living wage. But, because of the type of relatively unskilled hand labor required, deconstruction could do double duty if paired with job training programs to provide well-paid entry level construction jobs.  

Another economic consideration; tipping or landfill fees cost an average of $25 per ton so it will take about $2,875 just to bury our 1,800 square foot house in the ground.  If 80 percent of that house (a typical figure) can be diverted to reuse or recycle, that amount would fall to under $600.

The Deconstruction Institute estimates that for every 3 feet of house that is deconstructed, 1 foot of new house can be constructed with the reused lumber.  Carrying this a bit further, if all demolition could be diverted into deconstruction, 125,000 new homes could be construction with recycled lumber each year.

Convinced yet?  There are additional savings from deconstruction in the form of Energy and reduction of green house gases.  We will take these up later in the week.