Residential Developments and Green Demolition

The Eco-Revolution is changing nearly every industry, and demolition is no exception. Green demolition involves recycling or reusing as much material as possible from the building being demolished, including flooring, pipes, metal, concrete and many other types of demolition debris. In fact, many demolition projects now require the demolition company to recycle 90-95 percent of all materials.


Opting for green demolition helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills while simultaneously reducing the amount of virgin materials that must be used in construction. As a country, we create an enormous stream of construction waste. According to the EPA, the U.S. generated nearly 136 million tons of construction waste in 2008 alone! Overall, building projects contribute 40 percent of the nation’s solid waste. Fortunately, green demolition experts have developed techniques for salvaging materials so they may be reused in other projects.

Green techniques can be applied in all types of demolition work, including commercial, industrial and residential. Commercial demolition involves tearing down professional structures, including schools and office buildings. Industrial demolition, on the other hand, comes into play when dismantling large factories and processing plants. Because these facilities are more likely to contain hazardous materials such as oil, fuel and asbestos, industrial demolition demands extremely specialized methods. Residential demolition is exactly what it sounds like – taking down structures or parts of structures that are located on a private residential property.

How Green Demolition Works

The most meticulous form of eco-friendly residential demolition is deconstruction, in which laborers take apart a building piece-by-piece, often by hand, so as to maximize recyclable materials. A dedicated deconstruction crew can take apart a house and reuse or sell every piece of salvageable material. While deconstruction has become the gold standard in green and demolition, it’s not always feasible for every project.

When deconstruction isn’t possible (or practical), the vast majority of materials from a demolished home can still be diverted from landfills using a variety of green demolition techniques. Here are a few steps an earth-friendly demolition firm will take when removing a residential structure:

Salvage functional, useful materials that may be reused. Many elements of a home can find new life in a future construction or remodeling project, provided they are in good condition. For example, doors, sinks, toilets and other fixtures can often be sold or donated to architectural salvage companies for reuse or resale. Wood beams, posts and glulam beams may also be sold or repurposed.

Recycle materials for other purposes. Oftentimes, demolition companies will throw all their debris into one mixed pile. This is not the way of the green demolition firm. Instead, environmentally conscious companies separate waste into different piles. Steel and other metals are often sifted out for processing and recycling – many scrap metal operations are interested in these materials – while concrete can be crushed into gravel. (An especially environmentally forward demolition firm will bring in a concrete crusher to grind up the gravel for reuse onsite.) Porcelain, ceramic tiles, roofing slate, plaster and similar materials are generally added onto the concrete or masonry piles. Wood debris that can’t be reused is placed in its own pile for recycling.

Constructing with Demolition in Mind

Green demolition companies are not the only players in the construction-demolition cycle. The consumer also has a part to play. New homebuyers can adopt a “cradle to grave” approach by working with contractors to create a building that will be easy to deconstruct later. For example, one way to do this is to use fewer sealants and adhesives, which make it difficult to reuse hardware, fixtures and appliances down the road.

Those who would dive into green demolition should know that “going green” poses its own challenges. The major obstacle to be overcome: cost. Green demolition requires a higher investment. Additionally, depending on location, green demolition companies may find it difficult to source construction reuse outlets where they can donate building materials. Although the higher upfront costs can dismay clients, other benefits such as tax credits and LEED certification are available for green demolition projects.

Portland, Oregon’s Elder Demolition is a fully licensed and insured demolition company with certifications for hazardous waste handling as well as broad experience with LEED-certified green demolitions.