Green Guide


Deconstruction to Build a Circle of Green

Green Space Today
Matt Knox

‘Deconstruction’ is a growing trend in the construction industry that builders and home owners either know about or soon will; many cities are either mandating and (or) rewarding it. Deconstruction itself is the careful dismantling and reclaiming of a structure’s reusable, finished materials and rough lumber.

Home owners can hire licensed contractors to deconstruct residences (i.e. take down all reusable materials and those materials that would have been destroyed and discarded). Materials can be donated to charities or sold to other contractors to be given a second life in another project and the property owner then gets a tax deduction. This is a meaningful, promising trend for property owners, contractors, cities and the planet that we live on.

Here are some things to think about:

  • A deconstruction contractor, hired to salvage property, is actually a specialty contractor and the initial cost will probably be more and the project may take a little longer to do than if a property is traditionally demolished.
  • However, the tax deduction makes deconstruction more cost effective. Most deconstruction contractors give free estimates and detail the cost and the tax benefits in writing.
  • The typical duration to deconstruct a house is about one week per 1,000 square feet.
  • Projects exceeding 3,000 square feet require more manpower to be brought in to speed them up.
  • A typical job is finished in about three weeks, and a reputable firm won’t consider a job done until the project site is clean.


With 160 million tons of construction waste going into American landfills each year, some cities are taking action by either offering incentives or issuing fees to builders that do not recycle a certain percentage of each project.

The City of San Diego reported that 20 -30% of the waste that goes into landfills each year is construction and demolition debris. In response, San Diego has come up with a “Green Building Incentive Program,” which rewards builders that meet the criteria of recycling their materials or using a specific percentage of recycled materials on their projects. The program’s reward is a 7.5% reduction in turnaround time for plan check and building permit fees.

As deconstruction is a great way to foster sustainable methods of building, one should talk to a trained, licensed deconstruction professional during the planning phase of a project and find out about the economic and ecological benefits.

Project profile:
In October 2009, DiggersList was able to give a live demonstration of deconstruction by building and dismantling a haunted house. We found materials and local contractors by posting a project on DiggersList and completed the construction and decoration. After Halloween, our partner, the Deconstruction and ReUse Network came out to deconstruct the haunted house. All proceeds of the deconstructed building materials were then donated to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles that also came by to pick up the materials. Our three-part “DiggersList Builds a Haunted House” video series can be watched here:

1. Suppliers and Contractors

2. Building and Scaring

3. Deconstructing and Recycling


Matt Knox is the Co-Founder and CEO of DiggersList. He can be reached at