Deconstruction is the systematic dismantling of a structure or its parts in the reverse order of construction. This method is used to salvage the building components, retain the highest value of the materials through reuse and/or recycling, and is an environmentally friendly alternative to demolition.

Types of deconstruction:

Material salvage: select components and features are removed from the building prior to building strip-out or removal.

Partial deconstructiona portion of the building, either particular segments or the entire interior, are removed prior to renovations or full removal.

Full deconstruction: the entire building is removed to the foundation piece by piece.

Full deconstruction in progress

Why Deconstruct?

The method of deconstruction can be used in any situation that traditional demolition would be used for: preparing a building for renovations or a change of use, replacing outdated components, or fully removing an unstable or vacant structure. There are many benefits to deconstruction!

Environmental benefits:

  • An environmentally friendly alternative to traditional demolition because it reuses materials that would normally go into landfills or illegal dumping grounds.
  • Conserving our natural resources by reducing the demand for virgin materials.
  • Cleaner and more organized than traditional demolition because worksites are contained, carefully controlled and typically do not require heavy machinery.
  • Safer than demolition because the goal is to gently remove materials in one piece


Economic benefits:

  • There’s value in reclaimed materials: resale, remanufacturing, creative reuse
  • Reduced disposal costs
  • Career development – local economy and tax base; industry building;
    • Labor intensive: deconstruction crews
    • Recycling and reuse businesses
    • tools, services, and transportation

Social benefits:

  • Job training: job skills, decon/ salvage knowledge, hazard abatement
  • Maintain cultural and historical features of communities through material reuse
  • Increase the availability of affordable building materials for renovations and development
  • Giving artists and craftspeople new mediums to express their creativity.

Opportunities in Philadelphia:

  • Deconstruction is a labor-intensive process that is a great vehicle for job training – providing skills in an emerging industry, and other building trades, through hands-on experience.
  • By expanding the deconstruction and material re-use industries, we can create jobs that can help people support themselves and their families while contributing to the local economy.
  • There are over 40,000 vacant properties in Philadelphia. These properties drive away investment, attract crime and drag down property values city-wide by an estimated $3.6 billion. However, these spaces contain forests of lumber and mountains of bricks – raw materials that can generate value through re-use in building renovation, new construction and in other industries.
  • Philadelphia recently became the largest city in the country to pass land bank legislation, which is aimed at quickly developing its nearly 10,000 city-owned properties.

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