Deconstruction a local government model
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Deconstruction: A Local Government Model. Wayne Fenton Orange County Public Works, Hillsborough, NC.

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Deconstruction: A Local Government Model

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Deconstruction: A Local Government Model

Wayne Fenton

Orange County Public Works,

Hillsborough, NC

Deconstruction is the process of selectively and systematically disassembling buildings that would otherwise be demolished to generate a supply of materials suitable for reuse in the construction or rehabilitation of other structures.

Deconstruction differs from recycling in that recycling does not seek to capture building materials in a reusable form (i.e., whole bricks, blocks, clean, unbroken pieces of lumber, etc.)

What is Deconstruction?

A Brief History

  • Orange County owns 34 buildings

  • Buildings range in age from pre-Revolutionary war to modern structures

The Building

Approximately 3,000 square feet

The Experiment

  • A 1920’s/1950’s mixed construction structure housing a sheltered workshop

  • Building located in heart of historic district

  • Sat vacant for several years after suffering severe storm damage

  • Options considered

The Process

  • Project approved by BOCC

  • Purchasing Dep’t persuaded

  • Bid-process tailored

  • Seasoned local deconstruction specialists hired

  • Process documented

Removal of unsafe structure

Capture of valuable materials, especially for use in other similar vintage structures

Demonstrate feasibility of process

Provide skills enhancement opportunities

Document the process:

To develop promotional video

To develop basic “how-to” video

Desired Project Outcomes

Materials Recovered

  • 39+ tons of building materials recovered for reuse through deconstruction

Recovered Materials

Materials Recycled

  • 6 tons of metal

  • 1 ton of white goods

  • 140 tons of concrete

Waste Generated

  • Less than 100 tons of waste generated by deconstruction required disposal

  • Primarily rotted wood, mixed composition items, sheetrock, shingles

Benefits of Deconstruction


  • Cost of deconstruction can be less than cost of demolition

  • Salvaged materials have a value

  • Cost avoidance in tipping fees

  • Preservation of landfill space

  • Job-skills training


  • Preservation of landfill space

  • Resource conservation

  • Deconstruction a cleaner technology than demolition – less noise, air pollution


  • Governments should lead by example

  • Act as a catalyst to contractors, facility owners/managers

  • Be a model for other governments

Demolition Costs

Estimate: $50,000

Deconstruction Costs

Actual Expenditures: $37,929


Salvaged Materials Value: $37,130*

Landfill Fees Avoided: $1,600

Cost Benefit Analysis

* Based on local vendor estimate

Structure successfully and safely removed

Some materials have been reused in other projects

Demonstrated feasibility of deconstruction option

Provided temporary workers with enhanced skills – two hired by County, one still employed

Promotional video complete & limited distribution

Measuring Success

The Video

  • High quality, low budget

  • 16 minutes running time

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