Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Green Housing “Deconstruction” in West Seattle Increases Jobs, Open Space

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) purchased two properties on the corner of Juneau and 26th Ave. SW eight years ago as part of the Urban Creek Legacy project. The Urban Creeks Legacy was an element of Seattle’s Millennium Project, a celebration of Seattle as “the city of light, water, and woods” -- the resources that make our city one of the nation's most desirable places to live. Urban Creeks Legacy projects included preserving open space next to selected creeks like Longfellow Creek.

Now both Parks and Recreation and SPU are using the green practice of deconstruction rather than demolition to remove houses on acquired properties and to create the open space promised. Buildings that are deconstructed are carefully dismantled to salvage components for reuse and recycling. Its benefits include reducing the amount of construction and demolition waste going to landfills, conserving resources through recycling, generating marketable products from salvage, providing job training to low-income and unskilled workers, and creating jobs. One jobs training program, Seattle Conservation Corps, is participating in the deconstruction and learning “Green Job” skills. Seattle Conservation Corps is a program of Seattle Parks and Recreation that provides homeless adults opportunities to train and work in a structured program that provides them with job skills and carries out projects that benefit our citizens and our environment.

SPU contracted with two members of the Northwest Building Salvage Network (NBSN) to deconstruct these houses. NBSN is a coalition of architectural salvage, deconstruction and used building materials companies currently serving the Puget Sound region, including companies like the ReStore, Second Use and Earthwise. Currently, the contractors are half way through deconstruction and they have salvaged significant volumes of lumber, concrete blocks, windows and doors and recycled metal, dry-wall and clean wood.

Policy-makers are also working to make deconstruction a common practice in Seattle. Today, builders in Seattle are issued demolition and new building permits at the same time. Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development wants to promote deconstruction as a viable alternative to building demolition. They propose an almost immediate turn-around for demolition permits to builders who agree to use deconstruction techniques. The department plans to ask the Mayor and City Council by the end of the month to consider this change to the permit process that will bring benefits to us all.

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