Green Demolition and Our Changing Urban Landform

Discovery Green ParkUrban demolition poses unique challenges. Tight quarters surrounding a building, for instance, require demolition contractors to use specialized tools and techniques. Urban environments also contain dense populations, raising the bar as far as the contamination of nearby resources is concerned. The following examines ways commercial demolition companies are preserving the urban landscape through green demolition.

Preventing Water Pollution

First, we must discuss contaminated storm water. A single building demolition job can send tons of sediment and construction pollutants down storm drains. Eventually, these materials are washed into nearby watersheds, where they have a dramatically negative impact on life. Too much sediment, for instance, can kill fish by raising the temperature of water and making it harder for predators to see their pray. Green building demolition contractors prevent these negative environmental impacts through sediment and erosion control.

Here are a few techniques for minimizing storm water contamination at a demolition site:

  • Minimize soil disruption whenever possible.
  • Leave as many plants in place as you can – they will help soak up water.
  • Limit the number of vehicles allowed access to the demolition site. Also, designate certain areas as roadways so as to minimize unnecessary soil disruption.
  • Divert water flow away from the demolition area.
  • Replant the demolition site when work is complete.
  • Erosion control mats and vegetation buffers can also help control the flow of water.

Most cities require demolition companies to provide a plan for water control before beginning demolition work.

Salvage and Recycling

Recycling demolished materials is another way residential and commercial demolition companies can “go green” in urban demolition projects. Steel, concrete and glass are just a few of the materials that can be recycled from the average building.

Vacant lots

Finally, a demolition company will have a lasting impact on surrounding neighborhoods according to how it leaves vacant lots. With many cities struggling to sell repossessed homes, vacant lots are becoming a common sight. Cleveland alone contains 20,000 vacant lots. Left alone, these lots create an ecosystem of invasive species. Yet if demolition companies take appropriate measures, these vacant lots can provide several community benefits.

First, vacant lots can help offset storm water overflow. When grass, shrubs and trees are planted in vacant lots, they help hold more water in the soil, slowing the rate of flow. In turn, this slows storm water runoff and limits the amount of pollutants in nearby streams and rivers.

Green vacant lots also help neighbors feel safer, as a study from the University of Pennsylvania has shown. Researchers theorize that “transforming vacant lots from a space overgrown with vegetation and filled with trash to a clean and green space may make it difficult for people to hide illegal guns and conduct other illegal activities… Additionally, green space may encourage community cohesion.”

Some nonprofits, like Philadelphia Green, are helping to repurpose vacant lots from weed-infested eyesores to delightful community gardens and urban farms. However, commercial demolition companies can also serve an important role. By removing debris and depositing topsoil, they can leave vacant lots ready for non-invasive plantings.

Eyesore buildings that must be torn down can be turned into emerald zones if demolition companies green the lots they leave behind. Taken together with responsible recycling and water management, these green demolition approaches can help protect and even beautify our urban landscapes.

[Photo by: erion.shehaj, via CC License]

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