EGLE II Project Highlights and Next Steps

By: Nat Hooper, Project Coordinator

Michigan Deconstruction Collaborative

Earlier this year, the MSU Domicology team - along with longtime partners American Classic Construction and the ReUse People of America - kicked off a new project that would quickly take the form of the Michigan Deconstruction Collaborative (MDC). With support from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the MDC team has endeavored to bolster the practices of Deconstruction and Material Reuse in our state by conducting targeted feasibility & market research, structuring deconstruction training projects to establish new crews, developing employment opportunities for individuals trained in deconstruction, and conducting informational webinars and continued outreach intended to help attract new partners to the collaborative.

For those who may not be familiar, deconstruction describes the practice of systematically dismantling structures (instead of demolishing them) with the goal of maximizing material recovery and reuse. Skilled deconstruction practitioners can readily recover 75% of all materials present in a structure, preventing substantial amounts of waste from entering the landfill. These materials are suitable for a wide array of uses, often being reused in a new structure or remodel project. In this way, embodied energy is conserved not just from the diversion of these materials from landfill, but from the voided greenhouse gas emissions gained via the extraction of new materials. As an emerging field of study and practice in our region, deconstruction also offers the potential for green jobs training and job creation – on average six full time deconstruction jobs for every one demolition job.

Project Highlight in Muskegan

We are excited to announce that the Muskegon County Land Bank has joined efforts with the MDC, becoming our fourth major collaborating partner. This addition to the collaboration has immense implications for the success of this project, and for the adoption of deconstruction and material salvage techniques in the state of Michigan. Under the Land Bank’s direction, our team has identified and secured a presently blighted single family residence located in Muskegon to serve as our collaborative’s first demonstration project.  In spring 2023, under the watchful eye of a ReUse People of America certified Deconstruction Trainer, this structure – a 1200 sf home built ca 1915 – will serve as the basis for a two-week on-site training program that will allow for a cohort of 14 to develop and hone their skills as deconstruction technicians. Additionally, the MSU Domicology team will be conducting a comprehensive waste diversion analysis of this project that will demonstrate the carbon savings / emissions reduction potential of deconstruction.

The decision to focus first on deconstructing a blighted home is no accident, and in fact, represents a fundamental test of the deconstruction value proposition that the Domicology team has long posited. Though many features of this home have been damaged by exposure to the elements, scrapping, and general vandalism (as is the case with most land bank owned properties that have endured the cycles of blight and abandonment so common in many Midwest cities), under the right conditions and with the right techniques, even substantially blighted structures can be seen as pools of resources with opportunity to actualize real world value. I’m talking of course about wood – and in the case of this specific structure – the abundance of old growth true-to-size framing lumber, original hard wood floors, and the use (or likely reuse) of old hand-hewn barn beams as structural support members. Such pieces have substantial resale and reuse value, and are sought after by craftspersons, artisans, designers, and DIYers alike. By working to create said value from such a distressed ‘liability’ property, MDC hopes to demonstrate a fundamental shift in how we understand structures, their lifecycles, and the opportunities for innovation that they present.

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