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Decon and Reuse Expo '17: Portland's landmark deconstruction ordinance takes center stage

The first City of Portland, Certified Deconstruction Workforce training. They're called "The Originals". You can meet them in person at the Decon + Reuse '17 conference September 27th at 9:45 am. (Sara Badiali)

Portland's landmark deconstruction ordinance has now been in place for a year.

It's not only kept one million pounds of demolition debris out of landfills, it's created $5 million of reusable building materials, the woman who helped write the ordinance says.

And next week, hundreds of visitors are expected to attend the Decon and Reuse ‘17 Expo at Portland State University.

Portland is the only city in the United States, and apparently the world, to enact an ordinance to deconstruct single-family homes built before 1916 -- rather than tear them down and cart them off to landfills.

The EPA estimates that construction debris makes up 40 percent of the material in landfills.

“If we can save that amount of space in the landfills, that means that we're not generating emissions from the decaying of those materials,” said expo organizer and re-use consultant, Sara Badiali. “The environmental impact is astounding.”

Badiali (Baddy-Alley) helped write the ordinance and has roots deep in the movement to reuse and reclaim building materials and is an organizer for next week's decon and reuse conference.

She says the first year with the ordinance in place has been a success.

“Out of 49 buildings that were permitted for deconstruction that fell into the ordinance, we have information back on 22,” Badiali said. “Out of those 22 of the houses that we've taken down, 71 percent of the material for those buildings not counting the foundations, have been salvaged for re-use.”

That adds up to more than a million pounds of building supplies that went back into the economy and that generated $5 million of products -- from speaker cabinets, to flooring to Fender guitars.

“Of course the wood that comes out of these buildings that's trapped in the walls is old, from 1916 and earlier is all old growth materials,” she said. “We're basically using the forest that we've cut down over and over again instead of just demolishing them and throwing them away.”

And while the ordinance was touted as the first of its kind in the nation, Badiali says it's ever rarer than that.

“My research over the years has shown me that it's actually the first in the world,” Badiali said. “There's nobody else that I can find, even in Europe, that has a deconstruction law on the books that says we have to dismantle buildings for re-use.”

Badiali and members of the Building Material Reuse Association, the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, Metro, and Portland State's Institute for Sustainable Solutions, are hosting the expo.

It'll be in Stuart Hall at Portland State University next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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