Mpls. Weighs “Deconstruction” Alternative To Demolition

The City of Minneapolis might work with a nonprofit to determine the financial feasibility of “deconstruction,” which is described as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional demolition.

The city of Minneapolis is weighing a pilot project for the “deconstruction” of vacant homes as an “environmentally-friendly alternative to demolition.”

The city is considering working with Minneapolis-based nonprofit Better Futures Minnesota on the potential project.

The pilot program aims to determine the financial feasibility of deconstruction as an alternative to standard demolition. Deconstruction costs more than demolition, but those costs can be offset in part through the sale of harvested, reusable materials.

Vacant properties are no small issue in the city of Minneapolis. Through May 1, city statistics tallied 574 vacant and condemned properties throughout the city, including both residential and commercial properties.

“The challenge is that policy really favors demolition,” said Steve Thomas, president and CEO of Better Futures Minnesota, who noted that demolition is both cheaper and faster.

A staff report from the City of Minneapolis estimates that deconstruction adds $8,000 to $10,000 to the cost of taking down a house. The report estimates that it would cost approximately $23,000 to deconstruct a typical single-family home.

But Thomas told Twin Cities Business that, through the more methodical deconstruction process, as much as 90 percent of the materials from a home can be reused or recycled.

“The benefits of deconstruction are overwhelming,” Thomas said.

The city’s Community Planning & Regulatory Services committee was slated to discuss the issue Tuesday but a city spokesman said it was being pulled from the agenda. The proposal is expected to return soon for discussion at a future meeting.

“We’re just grateful that they’re willing to consider an idea like this,” Thomas said.

Thomas noted that a private builder recently tapped the nonprofit to deconstruct a house in Edina to make way for another home on the same site.

“We have about half-a-dozen bids pending with other private builders,” Thomas said.

Thomas said that Better Futures Minnesota, which was founded in 2008, has an annual budget of about $2.5 million. The group’s mission also includes providing jobs for men who have been homeless, incarcerated, unemployed, or face other obstacles to employment.

“It’s hard for these guys to go out on the open market and get work,” Thomas said. “We like to think like a business, but we’ve got a social mission.”

The group’s board includes representatives from Wells Fargo and Medica. The board is chaired by Louis King, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Summit Academy OIC, and also includes Tom Fulton, president of the Minneapolis-based Family Housing Fund.

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