Deconstruction.  What is it? Why Do it?

Deconstructing the Robinson Dairy

Ever since we started discussing The Pad, being environmentally conscious has always been a priority. I worked for an environmental nonprofit for 8 years that focussed on the diversion of construction material from the landfill.  When the engineers told us there was no way to incorporate or reuse the existing building, the Robinson Dairy transfer center, I explained deconstruction to my partner Lynne and she was excited we could incorporate the process into the development.

I would like to thank Nick’s Professional Land Development who was willing to go on this journey with us. Finding a contractor who is willing to try a “new way” of doing something can be difficult. When I explained why and how we would accomplish the green deconstruction, they were excited to be a part of it.

Why we chose deconstruction over demolition?

An estimated 30%-40% of the material in our landfills comes from the construction industry. Deconstructing a single building will not make a difference in the large picture, but it falls in line with The Pad’s belief in the triple bottom line. By completing a deconstruction for a similar cost to a regular demolition, we hope to inspire people to pursue this path.

Triple Bottom Line

The Pad will follow and adhere to the business practice of a triple bottom line. Our decisions will account for people, (both our customers and employees) planet, and profit. By choosing to deconstruct this building, we are able to affect both people and the planet, and maybe even profit. We are providing more jobs to the local economy as the process involves more manual labor and we are helping the planet by diverting materials from the landfill. Depending on how the building comes apart, we might even be able to save a little money.


Demolition VS. Deconstruction

The difference between deconstruction and demolition can be blurry; oftentimes both practices are performed on the same project for different reasons. We’ve attempted to generalize and separate the two practices below.


A demolition usually takes two factors into account, cost and time.  Removing an entire building from a site in a matter of days is possible by directing almost all materials to the landfill. Separating steel and non-ferrous metals for recycling at their respective scrap yards is a common waste diversion technique. This process does not add much time and can save quite a bit of money as the contractor receives market value for these items, and it will decrease the dump fees by reducing the weight going to the landfill.




Deconstruction is the systematic dismantling of a building. There can be numerous reasons for choosing this course. Architectural salvage is the deconstructing of older or historic properties and rebuilding them on a new site or selling the different parts as “reclaimed” materials. This is the most common reason people deconstruct buildings as it is profit driven. The rarity of the object and the additional cost of manually dismantling the structure contributes to the high cost of reclaimed materials. However, this is not always the case, and there are stores nationwide, similar to thrift stores, that focus on reclaimed building materials. More details to come on this subject in a future post. Deconstruction is also utilized if hazardous materials are a factor. When asbestos is detected, governments mandate asbestos abatement, which is a form of deconstruction. Any contaminated building materials are removed by hand and disposed of according to strict regulations before demolition can begin.

We will deconstruct the existing building for the purpose of diverting as much material from the landfill as possible. By tearing the structure down by hand, we can sort the material as we go deciding whether we want to recycle, reuse, sell, donate, or dispose of the different materials. This process can take a little more time, but the additional cost of labor can be partially offset with a reduction in dumping fees, the sale of materials, or tax deductions from donating to non-profits.




We will utilize almost every method in diverting our material from the landfill. You can see here that we are removing all the T&G siding by hand. This is a really cool old growth redwood and we will be reusing it in The Pad. As we move along in the process, we will feature some different materials and where they end up.





*Before deconstructing or demolishing any structure, you should determine if it contains asbestos, lead, or anything else that can pose a health or environmental risk. If detected, remove contaminated material and dispose of it properly before continuing whichever practice you decide.