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Cleveland businesses go “green” with deconstruction rather than demolition

On the "Sound of Ideas," we learn about the process of deconstruction, which reuses old building materials. [Emre Ucarer/shutterstock]
On the "Sound of Ideas," we learn about the process of deconstruction, which reuses old building materials. [Emre Ucarer/shutterstock]

When construction is depicted in the movies, you often see a big building being hit by a giant wrecking ball, or being blown up with TNT. You don't think about all the waste that is involved with kind of demolition. All the wood that could be used in another building's floors, all the doors, floors and toilets that could be repurposed, but often just get pulled out of the wreckage, and taken to a dump. 

These days, the "green building" movement is growing beyond energy efficiency into finding new ways to go green, like reusing parts of old buildings. This process, called deconstruction, can sometimes take more time, which can lead to the project being more costly, but it's something that is gaining steam across the country. 

Back in 2016, the city of Portland, Oregon became the first city in the country to adopt an ordinance requiring certain homes to be deconstructed, rather than demolished. Several cities have created their own deconstruction policies since then, including our neighbor, Pittsburgh, which in April last year, the mayor issued an executive order to develop a unified city-led deconstruction policy and establish a pilot program utilizing deconstruction methods on city-owned condemned properties. 

Some of the goals for this policy were, "to create family sustaining jobs, foster the expansion of a circular economy, advance an equitable investment in improving quality of life in low-income communities, and divert reusable materials from languishing in the landfill for generations."

Speaking of a circular economy, the nonprofit newsroom The Land has been doing a series of stories looking into ways that Northeast Ohio is being more sustainable, and recently published stories on how local businesses are getting in the deconstruction game.

This hour on the "Sound of Ideas," we'll talk to local experts about deconstruction, and what could incentivize more companies to think green in their next building project. 

Later in the hour, we'll talk to the team behind Green Book Cleveland, a history project from Cleveland State University.

-Marc Lefkowitz, Writer & Sustainability Expert

-Jessica Davis, President, Rebuilders Xchange

-Mark Benton, Senior Associate, Bialosky Cleveland 

-Sarah O’Keeffe, Director of Sustainability, MetroHealth 

-Mark Souther, Ph.D., Pr​ofessor of History, Director, Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
Cleveland State University 

-Erich Schnack, Graduate Student in History, Cleveland State University

-Sarah White, Graduate Student in History, Cleveland State University

Rachel is the supervising producer for Ideastream Public Media’s morning public affairs show, the “Sound of Ideas.”