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Dismantling and deconstruction

Deconstruction is the reverse of construction - removing building parts in the reverse order to construction.

Deconstruction techniques remove building components piece by piece rather than damaging building parts by destructive methods. Start with the soft strip of interior fittings, doors and linings then remove the roofing, cladding, windows and finally framing and foundations. Multi-storey buildings are typically deconstructed floor by floor, beginning with the roof and upper floor.

  • Prepare the site and mark out waste storage areas before dismantling begins to make the process smoother and help reduce damage to salvaged materials. Increased space for storage of materials is likely to be needed for deconstruction versus demolition.
  • Undertake the soft strip manually with hand tools to minimise damage caused by large machinery.
  • During the hard strip, dismantling of major components may be done in stages. Large-scale removal of building parts such as flooring or roofing may be done initially with excavators or cranes followed by more detailed separation of components and contamination by hand (on site or off site). Preparation of materials may be required prior to removal, such as soaking timber floors and fittings with water to avoid splitting.

Storing and handling recyclable and reusable materials

Ensure safe and dry storage of salvaged items and careful removal from the site to reduce damage and contamination that could preclude reuse or devalue the materials.

  • Check with clients, salvaged goods dealers and recycling operators regarding any particular specifications for storage and transportation.
  • Provide and erect barriers and security devices around the site as required to protect the salvaged material from damage, mishandling, theft, vandalism and fire.
  • Label separated components as they are removed, for easy reinstallation.
  • Keep all hardware (hinges, screws, rollers, guides, keys) together with the building component such as doors, windows, joinery, HVAC.
  • Asbestos should only be removed by approved contractors.

On-site or off-site waste management?

Decide whether you will separate waste types on site for various recycling, reuse and disposal options or haul mixed waste off site for sorting and separation. You could even have a combination of the two:

  • On-site involves one waste storage area with several skips, bins and piles to keep waste types separate. Several organisations may be involved in collecting the different waste types. Most deconstruction projects involve a large amount of on-site sorting.
  • Off-site is the traditional waste management method of having one skip of mixed waste collected by a waste contractor. Recyclable materials are then sorted out of the skips at a designated facility.

Key determining factors are:

  • the available space for several bins or piles - where space is limited, off-site sorting is usually best
  • costs - compare recycling service charges and labour for sorting, compared with a waste contractor's off-site service
  • availability of recycling services and waste haulers locally and their ability to pick up materials or whether you will transport your own waste, recyclables and salvaged building items from site.
  • availability, training and commitment of the labour force on site
  • whether materials will be reused in the new development
  • whether materials will be directly on-sold from site
  • potential for damage or contamination during transportation off site or during storage on site.

More information

Relevant case studies