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Four ways to benefit from Milwaukee’s deconstruction ordinance freeze

The Razed & Found deconstruction team removes a pocket door. (Photo courtesy of Razed & Found)

The Razed & Found deconstruction team removes a pocket door. (Photos courtesy of Razed & Found)

By Kevin Fogle
Operations director, Razed & Found

On Jan. 14, the Milwaukee Common Council voted to freeze its deconstruction ordinance until 2020, once again allowing the demolition of homes and historic structures built in or before 1929. The substitute ordinance also requires the Department of Neighborhood Services to spend at least $1.2 million on the deconstruction of city-owned properties in 2019.

The team at Razed & Found, a division of WasteCap Resource Solutions, said that the original deconstruction ordinance had some lofty goals that were not met. Yet, Razed & Found continues to believe these goals could eventually be achieved if Milwaukee starts small with practical solutions that benefit all parties involved — economically and environmentally.

Milwaukee homeowners, developers and contractors can use the pause to their advantage. There are many ways to get more firsthand experience and education when it comes to deconstruction. While deconstruction is often seen as more time-consuming and costly than demolition, it can benefit your company, your project and the local economy.

The following are four ways to benefit from the deconstruction freeze this year so that you come out on top when it is re-established in 2020.

Enroll in deconstruction training

Developers and contractors can learn more about deconstruction through resources like The ReUse People of America Certified Deconstruction Contractor Training. TRP also offers two-day workshops that provide an overview to contractors, architects, municipal employees, building owners and others interested in deconstruction and building materials salvage. Taking these steps will make you informed when hiring deconstruction contractors, and can even spark an interest in developing your own skilled deconstruction workforce in-house.

The Razed & Found deconstruction team removes a built-in dining room storage unit during a recent project.

The Razed & Found deconstruction team removes a built-in dining room storage unit during a recent project.

Explore less intensive deconstruction practices

According to the Building Materials Reuse Association, there are four categories of deconstruction: strip-out (also known as soft salvage), selective deconstruction, hybrid deconstruction and full deconstruction.

The ordinance called for full deconstruction, which requires trained and certified contractors to spend five to 10 days dismantling 100 percent of the building — including loose assets, finishes, core, shell, frame, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and often foundation, slab, and footings — all to the highest possible recovery.

Strip-out deconstruction, on the other end of the spectrum, requires one to two days’ time to harvest a building’s most valuable and easily removable components. Materials generally targeted include equipment, kitchen cabinets, doors, windows, furnishings, flooring, lighting and bathroom fixtures. Homeowners can utilize a specialized deconstruction group like Razed & Found to provide strip-out services. The project owner will receive a tax-deductible donation, reduced landfill fees, affordable labor costs and the satisfaction that they have supported the growing reuse economy.

Familiarize yourself with local resources for materials donation

The reuse economy is thriving in Milwaukee — you just have to know where to look for it. A large population of designers, homeowners, business owners and contractors regularly look for opportunities to avoid purchases of new materials while adding unique pieces and meaningful character to their design projects.

Razed & Found’s own 10,000 square-foot retail store has more than 7,000 customer visits per year. Other popular outlets are the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Salvation Army, and Purple Heart Pickup Service. There are more resources available on the city’s Milwaukee Recycles website.

As the reuse market continues to grow, more jobs will be created downstream, including warehouse operations, retail, trucking, value-added manufacturing and further job training opportunities. The more the building community connects with donation and retail outlets, the more streamlined the supply chain can become.

Collect case studies

A number of tasks must be completed in order for projects to meet the 2018 ordinance specifications, including completing a deconstruction project assessment, hiring a certified deconstruction contractor or consultant, displaying proper signage, following heavy machinery guidelines and documenting all salvageable materials.

If you do embark on a deconstruction project in 2019, Razed & Found recommends following the spirit of the initial specifications so that accurate data can be collected. Then, summarize your experience in a case study that can be shared publicly. Your firsthand knowledge can contribute to rethinking how deconstruction can still occur while staying true to the ordinance’s intent.

The city of Milwaukee deconstruction ordinance has great potential to increase sustainable building practices and workforce development opportunities. Help create something we can all be in favor of: a sensible deconstruction ordinance.

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