Deconstruction in Pittsburgh

Here in the City of Pittsburgh, there are over 1,700 buildings that are currently condemned as uninhabitable. As we look to address these buildings and return them to assets within our community, deconstruction provides a sustainable alternative approach to the current demolition process.

The current process of demolishing buildings mechanically is both expensive and environmentally harmful. Since 2015, the City of Pittsburgh has spent over $12 million in demolishing structures and issued private demolition permits valued at over $24 million. Construction & Demolition waste from standard demolition practices generates at twice the rate of municipal waste in the waste stream, accounting for nearly 62% of waste in landfills nationwide. This waste not only includes material that can be reused or recycled, such as bricks, lumber, shingles, and tile, but often includes hazardous materials that are not disposed of properly.

Deconstruction, a systematic process of disassembling whole or parts of a structure to recover maximum economic and public good through reuse and recycling, provides an alternative to standard demolition practices. Deconstruction not only addresses the issue of uninhabitable structures in our neighborhoods, but does so in a way that reduces waste, improves public health outcomes, and provides economic benefit to our communities. On April 20, 2021, Mayor William Peduto issued an Executive Order for the City of Pittsburgh to develop a unified City-led deconstruction policy and establish a City-led pilot program utilizing deconstruction methods on City-owned condemned properties. This effort will move forward through a robust community-informed process and represents an opportunity to create family-sustaining jobs, foster the expansion of a circular economy, advance an equitable investment in improving quality of life in low-income communities, and divert reusable materials from languishing in the landfill for generations.

City of Pittsburgh Deconstruction Principles:

  1. Develop deconstruction feasibility assessment, waste management plan & report templates for use in City contracts and projects
  2. Explore existing government roles and regulations
  3. Create a Deconstruction Pilot Program for Pittsburgh
  4. Oversee new deconstruction initiatives
  5. Nominate City-owned properties for deconstruction test pilot (using property records and Deconstruction Feasibility Assessments)
  6. Spread the word to neighbors, Permits, Licenses, & Inspections customers, and the general public
  7. Trust the experts in setting deconstruction policies (convene a Deconstruction Action Council)
  8. Raise funds for pilot, trainings, outreach, oversight, and more
  9. Use salvage and deconstruction to preserve neighborhood character
  10. Connect improved public health and wellbeing to using deconstruction instead of demolition
  11. Time end use vacant lot with community needs and productive neighborhood functions
  12. Incentivize participation in building trades, deconstruction certification, and city contracts
  13. Open policy parameters to use deconstruction to take down privately-owned, dead-end abandoned homes
  14. Numerate, analyze, and publicize success and explore further considerations

On April 20, 2021, Mayor Peduto issued an Executive Order committed to a unified, City-led Deconstruction Policy at Construction Junction.

Map of Potential Deconstruction Pilot Sites

This map shows roughly 340 City-owned condemned properties, as well as their proximity to the Avenues of Hope historically Black and diverse business districts, to help visualize where deconstruction policies can help improve the quality of life of our neighborhoods. As we move towards a City-led deconstruction pilot program, we hope to determine properties to address through a holistic and community-informed process that considers, among other things, CDBG eligibility, neighborhood plans, historic legacies of redlining, and environmental justice

City of Pittsburgh public servants 
Sarah Kinter, Robert Columbus, Neil Grbach - Department of Permits, Licenses & Inspections 
Valerie Monaco, Eric Miazga, Jesse Wood, Andrew Hayhurst, Smyth Welton, Matt Jacob, Dolly Bellhouse, Wendy Urbanic - Department of Innovation & Performance 
Brandon Jones – Department of Finance  
Shelly Danko + Day, Phillip Wu – Department of City Planning 
Kinsey Casey, Dan Gilman – Office of the Mayor 
Majestic Lane, Lindsay Powell – Office of Equity   
Chris Hornstein – Department of Public Works  
Pam Vogel - Human Resources & Civil Service 

City of Pittsburgh research interns 
John Garrow, Maureen Hartwell, Rebecca Glickman, Brennan Coleman – Office of the Mayor 
Anais Peterson – Office of Councilman Bruce Kraus 


Big and humble thanks for generosity with time, expertise, and resources to  
Mike Gable, Terry Wiles, Melissa Mongelli, Alexis Miller – Construction Junction  
Joe Connell – Build Reuse  
Michelle Fanzo, George Rieke, Greg LaForest – AIA Pittsburgh  
Stephanie Phillips, Corey Edwards – Office of Historic Preservation | San Antonio, TX 
Brad Badelt – Sustainability Planning, Urban Design & Sustainability | City of Vancouver 
Nathan Torgelson – Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections | Seattle, WA  
Shawn Wood – City of Portland Construction Waste Specialist | Portland, Oregon  
Timonie Hood – Environmental Protection Agency  
Jeaneen Zappa, Talor Musil, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis – Lead Safe Allegheny Coalition
Rebuilding Together PittsburghWomen for a Healthy Environment 
Shannon Sandberg - Allegheny County Health Department Air Quality Program  
Lori Horowitz, Brian Kelly - Allegheny County Housing & Community Environment Program 
An Lewis, Natalie Boydston, Emily Woodard - Tri COG Land Bank 
Masoud Sayles – Grounded Strategies  
Stacy Albin & Sarah Shea - Pennsylvania Resources Council 
Aaron Lauer – University of Pittsburgh, Institute of Politics  
Meade Johnson, Matthew Kankowitz, Kendelle Conrad, Taylor Sadwick, Lauren Bichsel, Jessica Wolff, Cecilia Lebus, Devon Else, Cassandra Horn, Lauren Bauer, Matthew Reyes, Rebecca Chen, Tess Roth, Nicholas Grimes, Evan Larimer, Jake Dunleavy, Lysia Gehris - University of Pittsburgh Spring 2021 Projects in Marketing Class 
Hillary & Barley Merenstein 
Michael, Daniel, Jeremy Carberry 
Alexander Stypula
Thomas Guentner - Landforce: land stewardship +workforce development


City of Pittsburgh Deconstruction Working Group:  
Alicia Carberry, Hersh Merenstein, Ernest Rajakone, Upasna Goswami – Office of the Mayor 
Eric Williams - Office of Community Affairs  
Calli Baker – Department of Public Works, Facilities 
Meg Yarish – Department of Public Works, Operations   
Tim Dolan – Urban Redevelopment Authority   
Rebecca Kiernan – Department of City Planning, Sustainability & Resilience Division 
Mark Mariani – Department of Permits, Licenses & Inspections  
Jennifer Olzinger, CPPB - Office of Management & Budget 
Jess Rohe-Cook – Department of Innovation & Performance, 311 


City of Pittsburgh  

Climate Action.  City of Pittsburgh.  

Pittsburgh Vacant Lot Toolkit. (2015). Pittsburgh City Planning.  

Roadmap to Zero Waste for the City of Pittsburgh, PA. (2017). Regions of Climate Action.  

Condemned, Under Contract and Razed Properties.  City of Pittsburgh.  

Former Homewood School Demolition.  Urban Redevelopment Association.  

Reuse is the Best Option.  Construction Junction.  

Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (2016). Office of Policy Development and Research, US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  

Teixeira, S., & Zuberi, A. (2016, Aug 25). Mapping the Racial Inequality in Place: Using Youth Perceptions to Identify Unequal Exposure to Neighborhood Environmental Hazards. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 13(9). 

University of Pittsburgh Projects in Marketing spring 2021 class project deconstruction marketing campaign final presentation and final research.

Allegheny County   

Allegheny County Environmental Justice Areas - WPRDC. (2010). [Dataset]. Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.  

Allegheny County Health Department Strategic Plan. (2019).  

2019 Municipal Solid Waste Management Plan: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. (2018). Allegheny County Health Department.  

Plan for a Healthier Allegheny (2017 update). 
Allegheny County Health Department. 

Safe and Healthy Homes Program. Allegheny County Health Department. 


Greater Pittsburgh Region   
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. (2021). PA Blight Library.  
Steel Valley Council of Governments, Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments, & Twin Rivers Council of Governments. (2013). Financial Impact of Blight on the Tri-COG Communities.  

Tri-COG Land Bank & Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh. (2020). “Lead Safer”  

Demolition Demonstration Project for Southwest, PA.  


Deconstruction  guides, references, and templates  
On the Road to Reuse: Residential Demolition Bid Specification Development Tool Report & Factsheet. (2013). US Environmental Protection Agency.  

A Guide to Deconstruction. (2000). US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  

Responsible Demolition: A Baltimore Case Study with National Implications. (2016). The Annie E. Casey Foundation.  

Lauer, A. (2019). Lead-Safe Demolition: Working Group Report. Institute of Politics, University of Pittsburgh.  
Decon + Reuse Conference (2019), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  
Construction & Demolition Waste Manual. (2003). NYC Department of Design & Construction.  

Guy, B., & Gibeau, E. M. (2003). A Guide to Deconstruction. F. D. o. E. Protection. Deconstruction Institute.  

Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse - Innovations and Opportunities. (2018). [Video]. US Environmental Protection Agency.  

Best Management Practices: Chicago’s Guide to Construction & Demolition Cleanliness & Recycling. (2004). City of Chicago.  

Deconstruction and Materials Reuse - An International Overview. (2005). International Council for Research and Innovation in Building Construction.  

Deconstruction Rapid Assessment Tool. (June 26, 2020).  United States Environmental Protection Agency.  

A Homeowner’s Guide to Reuse and Recycling. City of Evanston.  

A Homeowner’s Guide to Salvage + Reuse. Office of Historic Preservation, City of San Antonio.'s%20Guide%20to%20Salvage%20and%20Reuse.pdf?ver=2019-11-07-114505-223  

Elliott, K., Locatelli, E., & Xu, C. (2020). The Business Case for Deconstruction. Vancouver Economic Commission.  

Wu, S., & Kim, Y. (2020). A Case Study of Construction & Demolition Waste: Examining New York City’s Zero Waste Goals Within the Context of the Green New Deal [Poster]. Dresden Nexus Conference, Dresden, Germany.  

Sparandara, L., Werner, M., Kaminsky, A., Finch, L., & Douglas, K. (2019).  Accelerating the circular economy through commercial deconstruction and reuse. Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  
Heritage in Reverse: Material Values, Waste and Deconstruction. (2018). School of Indigenous & Canadian Studies, Carleton University.  

Specification Master Section 024293 - Building Deconstruction. (2004). Solid Waste Division, King County, Washington  

 Ayodele, A. E. (2014). Changes in the Lead Concentration in Air and Soil during House Deconstruction and Demolition: Case Study Springwells, Detroit, Michigan Wayne State University].  

 Bay Area Deconstruction Working Group.  

South, E. C., Kondo, M. C., Cheney, R. A., & Branas, C. C. (2015, May). Neighborhood blight, stress, and health: a walking trial of urban greening and ambulatory heart rate. Am J Public Health, 105(5), 909-913.   

Estimating 2003 Building-Related Construction and Demolition Materials Amounts. (2017). US Environmental Protection Agency.