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Pittsburgh to Explore Deconstruction Over Demo

Thursday, April 29, 2021

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Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto recently issued an Executive Order to create a city-led deconstruction policy for buildings—disassembling a building instead of demolishing it. The order aims to remediate blight while diverting building materials from landfills.

The mayor says that the order will advance climate action goals, promote equity and create job training opportunities.

“Data shows that living in proximity to blight can cause serious health issues for neighbors, and we also know that too many salvageable building materials languish in a landfill, which only harms our planet,” said Peduto.

“Deconstruction will allow us to better remove blight from our neighborhoods, preserve assets from historic buildings, divert reusable materials from our over-burdened landfill, improve air quality, and create a pipeline for family-sustaining jobs.”

Getty Images / peeterv

Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto recently issued an Executive Order to create a city-led deconstruction policy for buildings—disassembling a building instead of demolishing it. The order aims to remediate blight while diverting building materials from landfills.

The order calls for the city to create a process for deconstruction-eligible structures that includes taking account of neighbor and community concern about the property, focusing on structures in historically Black business districts and low-income communities, and conducting a sustainability deconstruction assessment.

According too 90.5-WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate, officials hope to identify at least 10 houses by the fall.

According to the mayor’s office, policy will pilot deconstruction on city-owned properties and city facilities but will also create standards for recovery and recycling of materials for city-funded demolitions.

There are currently around 1,700 buildings in the city that are condemned and the city owns about 20% of them. Since 2015, the city has spent $12 million on demolition and has approved double that amount in private sector work.

Additional directives include the creation of community engagement places to ensure that neighbors and residents understand the process as well as convening a council comprised of members from various departments, industries and institutions to study and advocate for the policy.

“Deconstruction provides the City with a tool in its toolbox to remove blighted properties that have deteriorated beyond repair, but still contain materials that can be salvaged and diverted from the landfill,” said Sarah Kinter, Director of the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections.

“By taking apart a building rather than using traditional demolition we can reduce construction waste, continue to address environmental hazards, and promote the highest demolition standards.”

The public is also encouraged to provide feedback on the matter.

Other Pittsburgh Projects

Pittsburgh has been focused on various infrastructure points over the past few years and, most recently, officials from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority reported that the city’s Four Mile Run Stormwater Project is expected to kick off this spring.

The $36.1 million effort plans to manage the flow and collection of stormwater that’s plagued a 2,400-acre stretch of Pittsburgh, that specifically affects the city’s Garfield, Squirrel Hill, Oakland and Hazelwood neighborhoods.

Prior to that, at the end of January, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that the city of Pittsburgh was planning a new hydropower plant along the Ohio River.

Touted by Fitzgerald as a landmark environmental commitment, the project entails a 35-year agreement with Boston-based hydropower energy developer, Rye Development. According to reports, the company won favor with the county following a request for proposals in 2019, although the project has been in the works for a few years.

Also in the energy realm, last summer workers in Pittsburgh placed the last of 4,784 solar photovoltaic panels at a site that is now considered the largest single-sloped solar array in the country.

The $5 million project was completed by Scalo Solar Solutions and covers 133,000 square feet of an old steel mill—Mill 19—in the city’s Hazelwood Green redevelopment along the Monongahela River.

And, in terms of transportation, officials at the Pittsburgh International Airport released a statement in February saying that crews are now ready to move forward with the next phase of the Terminal Modernization Program.

The new terminal comes with an estimated price tag of $783.8 million, in addition to the new parking garage ($258.8 million) and new roads ($57.1 million). The project will be paid for by the airlines, bonds, grants, and revenue from Marcellus shale gas drilling, parking and airport shops.

Officials estimate that more than 6,000 temporary design and construction jobs will be created, along with 4,500 “spin-off” jobs to support the purchases of supplies and services as well as spending wages earned by the workers.


Tagged categories: Building materials; Commercial Construction; Demolition; Good Technical Practice; NA; North America; Recycled building materials; Residential Construction

Comment from Harman Metzger, (4/29/2021, 6:27 AM)

I wonder if Mr. Peduto has considered worker health and safety in his plan for deconstruction. Great idea until someone gets hurt. Seems much more dangerous for workers than demolition.

Comment from William Ellinger, (5/1/2021, 7:48 PM)

OR, this being the first day of NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION MONTH, has the Mayor considered a community wide assessment of the historic, architectural and cultural values associated with the "blighted" buildings and the potential for renewing their neighborhoods by preserving and restoring them? Just asking.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/4/2021, 7:33 AM)

William - evaluation of the building was mentioned in the article. This pilot program is for buildings deemed unrepairable. That said, this looks like it could be a good source of appropriate vintage materials for restoration projects and it would be good to see that included.

Comment from Jeff Laikind, (5/4/2021, 9:24 AM)

I would expect that lead paint mitigation would also be of high concern, given the age of the buildings. Is it easier to control lead dust if a building is carefully disassembled?

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