Deconstruction vs Demolition

Things are happening on site at our DUO Townhomes site in Parksville, BC. The existing houses are coming down, tree falling is complete, and excavation has started for Building 01.

We’ve taken a slightly different approach to removing the existing houses and opted for deconstruction versus the more conventional approach of machine-based demolition. This type of salvage is common when the wood has high value due to its age, species, dimensions, character, etc. but is far less common when the wood is conventional dimensional lumber. By choosing deconstruction for DUO we can salvage the dimensional lumber coming out of the houses for reuse, where it makes sense and meets code, in the new construction processes. This is a far better solution than turning this perfectly good wood into bark mulch or sending it to the landfill.

Tracking waste diversion has demonstrated that, in addition to our planned reuse of materials in the project, we are seeing components going to the local community, the used construction materials retail market, and to The ReStore which is a key part of the Habitat for Humanity program.  NRE (Nanaimo Recycling Exchange) is a huge help in developing our strategies for the waste diversion program.  Their efforts to create a processing schedule and strategies for not only the deconstruction waste but also a plan for the ongoing construction material waste is invaluable.   NRE’s belief in the positive environmental impact that recycling and reuse programs can have is evident.  Their time spent coordinating with us to create the most efficient plan possible, along with a tracking system that can be used to promote waste diversion on other construction sites in the future, shows their commitment to making positive change.  Taking it a step further, ongoing work is being done to produce strategies for the design stage of building that will help reduce waste and promote the use of more environmentally friendly products.

Our team members are working alongside Unbuilders (, to disassemble and inventory the material.  In addition to the environmental benefit of this process deconstruction provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local community by creating employment and skills development opportunities. We reached out to the John Howard Society and through those discussions we added two of their clients to our team for full time employment during the 3 month course of deconstruction. Our experience with these types of partnerships on past projects suggests that at least one of the JH clients may remain on the team for construction of the project.

New construction is, by its very nature, consumptive of resources and unsustainable in terms of it’s environmental impact. By embedding sustainability into the decision-making process as a core value consideration we can make a series of small steps, like deconstruction and salvage, to minimize the impact of new construction.

Even the felled trees have been processed into lumber – for what use we don’t know yet but it’s better than making them into firewood.