Signs of Portland’s growth abound. Maybe you’ve noticed more traffic delays due to construction. Or perhaps it’s harder to find parking at your office or home. As an Oregon demolition contractor, we track the changing urban landscape. Across the city, structures are being dismantled to make way for new development. Here we examine the city’s building boom, including factors fueling building development, the role of demolition, and how cutting-edge demolition processes can make the deconstruction process more eco-friendly.
Portland’s Growing Population
Demographic statistics hint at just how attractive Portland is to outsiders. According to the Census Bureau, the Portland metro area grew by 111 people per day between July 2014 and 2015. The regional Metro Council expects 400,000 new Portland residents by 2035.
As thousands of people move to the Rose City each year, real estate competition has grown fierce. Indeed, as Design Week Portland reports, our city has lately competed with New York and San Francisco for the nation’s lowest rental vacancy rates. The same goes for the real estate market, in which homes often sell in as little as 13 days, according to the Portland Business Journal.
This has spurred a mammoth building spree in neighborhoods across the city. Developers are scrambling to keep up with the growing population. According to Portland Monthly, 5,200 new residential units opened in Portland in late 2012 and 2013; another 5,000 were scheduled to appear by the end of 2014.
The major difference between earlier building sprees and this one is the type of construction that is being completed. In the early 2000s, for instance, the number of Portland building permits peaked, as contractors added single-family homes and the occasional Pearl district condo. Nowadays, more building permits are for multi-story high rises located all over the city. This vertical construction trend is spurred by two main factors: 1) younger, more urban newcomers who are more interested in condo and apartment living, and 2) the city’s urban growth boundary, which protects farmlands by restricting sprawl.
Here are two of the major developments slated to be built in Portland over the next few years:
- The Ankeny Blocks development downtown will bring eleven new buildings, some of them skyscrapers, to the section of downtown between the Morrison and Burnside bridges.
- Burnside Bridgehead construction will contribute to the feeling of a “second downtown” around the Lloyd District area. This includes the 21-story Yard PDX shard-like building currently up, as well as The Fair-Haired Dumbbell, a pair of six-story office buildings with ground-floor retail. Hassalo on Eighth and other nearby developments will add more than 750 new apartments to this ten-block area.
The cityscape is changing rapidly, and demolition work is key to that transformation.
The Role of Demolition in Portland’s Growth
Demolition contractors clear old structures to make way for new construction. The City requires contractors to notify neighbors of upcoming demolition. Traditionally, the demolition process includes a 35-day period between application and permitting. This allows time for notification of the neighborhood association. The property owner must also hang a bright orange sign on the property at this time, announcing demolition.
However, there is a work-around. If the building permit is submitted and paid for at the same time as the demolition permit, neighbor notification requirements may be waived.
Additionally, some demolition contractors are using another technicality to avoid alerting neighbors. Officially, the city does not consider a project to be a demolition if any part of the old structure is left standing. Therefore, contractors may leave a single wall standing as a way to avoid notification requirements
In our own demolition work, we aim for transparency and positive community relationships. We communicate with neighbors and work closely with city officials to ensure peaceful, positive demolitions. We also look for ways to make our work more eco-friendly.
Putting the “Eco” in Deconstruction: Green Demolition Practices
As a demolition company in Oregon, we have long prioritized eco-friendliness. Here are a few methods we’ve discovered for making demolition as green as possible:
• Minimize landfill contributions by salvaging as many materials as possible from defunct structures. Bricks, roofing material, walls, flooring, fixtures, beams, pipes, and many other materials from demolition sites may be salvaged or recycled for new construction.
• Reuse salvaged materials on site when possible. For instance, we can use our concrete crusher to make new pipe filler or road materials, saving our clients money on purchasing as well as landfill fees. Plus, reusing salvaged materials on site earns points toward LEED certification.
• Minimize noise and dust pollution. Our workers also receive 40 hours of safety training to ensure the safe disposal of hazardous materials such as radioactive timers, asbestos, and lead paint.
• Contribute toward LEED certification, which awards points for using recycled content, for diverting demolition materials from landfills, and for using salvaged materials.
Remember when the South Waterfront was a brown patch? How about the Pearl as an industrial district? Even if you’ve only lived here a year or two, you have already been a witness to the Phoenix-like death-and-rebirth that is Stumptown. Portland is a city of regeneration, where neighborhoods are revitalized and where newcomers can reinvent themselves as well. As demolition contractors, we have a front-row seat for the ongoing revivification of Portland’s urban landscape, and we’re committed to leading the community in green, earth-friendly demolition approaches befitting our eco-minded community.