A Bibliography on Demolition Waste and Deconstruction


By Susan Ross

Construction, renovation, and demolition (CR&D) waste can represent from 30 to 50% of municipal solid waste (Yeheyis et al, 2013). Yet this area of discard studies seems chronically understudied. Susan Ross, Assistant Professor at Carleton University, Canada, provides an extended bibliography on the topic, with a focus on one aspect of demolition waste: deconstruction.

Building deconstruction refers to the careful taking apart of a building to salvage its reusable materials and components. These are either stored on site for short-term integration in a new design, or removed to a salvage yard for use elsewhere at a later date. Whereas prevailing mechanical demolition processes create mounds of unsorted debris rendered less usable by a destructive process, deconstruction introduces a semblance of order to the end of life of a building, slowing down the process with manual labor and stock-taking, allowing for useful segregation. Although salvage and reuse are ancient practices, with the oldest cities rebuilt of the rubble of their political histories and environmental disasters (Kostof, 1982), recent approaches are framed as ecological alternatives. However, sustainable management of a city’s construction, renovation and demolition (CR&D) discards, which can represent from 30 to 50% of municipal solid waste (Yeheyis et al, 2013), should first consider consumption and production patterns rather than exclusively focus on end-of-life stages, like all other types of waste management.

Despite its promise for reuse and reduction of waste, there are several sources of conceptual and material tensions with deconstruction, including:

  • The implicit discounting of building re-use/renovation as a viable alternative to deconstruction;
  • Placing the primary focus on reducing future waste by designing new buildings for disassembly, and not studying existing building stock;
  • Land development that values the vacant sites created by demolition;
  • Existing salvage practices driven by economic value or efficiency;
  • The increasing speed of demolition versus slow buy-in for reclaimed materials;
  • The reuse challenges of contaminated and/or composite modern building materials;
  • The lack of regulation or comprehensive models of reuse and reused materials;
  • The need for networks of salvage storage and other circulation strategies;
  • Overlooked histories and values of related places and their material legacies.

Deconstruction is a complex technical, materials, social, cultural, and economic activity with many facets. The following texts touch on these issues and how they are related. The texts come from a range of disciplines and sources, and should be taken as different parts of an overall emerging conversation about deconstruction and its values, challenges, and materialities.

  • Addis, William. (2006).Building with Reclaimed Components and Materials: A Design Handbook for Reuse and Recycling. London, Earthscanp.
  • Ammon, Francesca Russello. (2016). Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Athena Institute/ Parks Canada. (2009). A Life Cycle Assessment Study of Embodied Effects for Existing Historic Buildings. Web.
  • Balodis, Taylor Martin Highet, “Deconstruction and Design for Disassembly: Analyzing Building Material Salvage and Reuse,” Carleton University Thesis (M.Arch.), 2017.
  • Brand, Stewart. (1984). How Buildings Learn, What Happens After Their Built. New York: Viking.
  • Building Materials Re-Use Association (BMRA). (2014). Introduction to Deconstruction: A Comprehensive Training Workbook.
  • Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC). (2009). LEED Green Building Rating System: LEED ND for New Construction and Major Renovation.
  • Cairns, Stephen, and Jacobs, M. (2014). Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture. MIT Press.
  • Cayé, Pierre. (2015). Critique de la Destruction Créatrice. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.
  • Chien, Anny. (2015). “Why Reclaimed?” Canadian Salvaged Timber. Web. https://www.canadiansalvagedtimber.ca/reclaimed-wood/why-reclaimed
  • Cossu, Raffaello and Ian D. Williams. (2015). “Editorial: Urban Mining: Concepts, terminology, challenges.” Waste Management 45: 1-3. Web.
  • Denhart, Hazel. (2010). “Deconstructing Disaster: Economic and Environmental Impacts of Deconstruction in Post-Katrina New Orleans,” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 54: 194-204.
  • Desilvey, Caitlin. (2017). Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.
  • Diaymondoglu, Vasil and Lorean, M. Fortuna, “Deconstruction of wood-framed houses: Material recovery and environmental impact,” Resources Conservation and Recycling 100 (2015): 21-30.
  • (2015). “Detroit Demolition Impact Report.” City of Detroit. Web. http://www.demolitionimpact.org/#thereport
  • Ecology Action Centre (EAC). (2010). Waste! Not? Toolkit. Web.
  • Ergun, Deniz and Mark Gorgolewski. (2015). “Inventorying Toronto’s single detached housing stocks to examine the viability of clay brick for urban mining.” Waste Management 45: 180-185.
  • Frangipane, Anna. (2015). “From Spolia to Recycling: the Reuse of Traditional Construction Materials in Built Heritage and its Role in Sustainability Today: a Review,” Geological Society, London, Special Publications, vol. 416, p. 23-33.
  • Frow, John. (2003). “Invidious Distinctions: Waste, Difference and Classy Stuff.” Culture and Waste, The Creation and Destruction of Value. Ed. Gay Hawkins and Stephen Mueck. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. 25-38.
  • Gorgolewski, Mark. (2008). “Designing with reused building components: some challenges,” Building Research & Information, 36:2, 175-188.
  • Guy, B., Shell, S., & Esherick, H. (2006). Design for deconstruction and materials reuse. Proceedings of the CIB Task Group39(4), 189-209.
  • Jeffrey, Colin. (2011). Construction and Demolition Waste Recycling, A Literature Review, Halifax, NS: Dalhousie University’s Office of Sustainability.
  • Hardesty,Donald L. (2001). “Issues in Preserving Toxic Wastes as Heritage Sites.” The Public Historian 23.2: 19-28. Web.
  • Kao, Shih-yang. (2013). “The City Recycled: The Afterlives of Demolished Buildings in Post-war Beijing.” Dissertation. University of California Berkeley.
  • Kernen, Paul. (2002). Old to New, Design Guide, Salvaged Building Materials in New Construction, 3rd edition. Vancouver: Greater Vancouver Regional District.
  • Kostof, Spiro. (1982). “His Majesty the Pick: the Aesthetics of Demolition.” Design Quarterly 118/119: 32–41.
  • Liboiron, Max. (2013). “Afterlives of Demolished Buildings in Beijing: A review of The City Recycled: The Afterlives of Demolished Buildings in Post-war Beijing, by Shih-yang Kao.” Dissertation Reviews. Web.
  • MacBride, Samantha. (2012). “Construction and Demolition Waste.” Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste, The Social Science of Garbage. Carl A. Zimring and William L. Rathje. 2 vols. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing. 148-150.
  • MacBride, Samantha. (2014). Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Mallach, Alan. (2011). “Demolition and preservation in shrinking US industrial cities,” Building Research & Information, 39:4, 380-394
  • Moe, Kiel. (2007). “Compelling Yet Unreliable Theories of Sustainability.” Journal of Architectural Education. 24-30. Web.
  • Nakajima, Shiro and Mark Russell, editors. (2014). “Barriers for Deconstruction and Reuse/Recycling of Construction Materials,” CIB Publication 397. Web.
  • Nordby, Anne S., B. Berge and A.G. Hesne. (2007). “Salvageability of building materials,” SB07 Lisbon – Sustainable Construction, Materials and Practices: Challenge of the Industry for the New Millenium. 
  • Ogdu, Liz, et al. (2010). Design for Re-use Primer, Public Architecture. Web. https://issuu.com/publicarchitecture/docs/design_for_reuse_primer_issuu
  • Petzet, Muck and Florian Heilmeyer. (2012). Reduce Reuse Recycle, Architecture as Resource. Berlin: Hatje Kantz.
  • Powter, Andrew and Susan Ross. (2005). “Integrating Environmental and Cultural Sustainability for Heritage Properties.” Association for Preservation Technology Bulletin 36 (4): 5-11.
  • Ross, Susan. (2017). “Sustainable Strategies for Canada’s Modernist Wood Legacy,” Journal of Architectural Conservation 23 (1): 1-19.
  • Ross, Susan. (2016). “Urban Waste Places and Heritage Values.” Paper presented at the Association for Critical Heritage Studies, Montreal.
  • Salvoweb, website. http://www.salvoweb.com
  • Schultmann, Frank and Nicole Sunke. (2007). “Energy-oriented Deconstruction and Recovery Planning.” Building Research & Information 35(6): 602-615.
  • Simms, S. Jordan. (2005). “A Polluting Concept of Culture: Native Artefacts Contaminated with Toxic Preservatives.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 4: 327-339.
  • Thompson, Michael. (1979). Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Waste. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Thomsen, André, Frank Schultmann & Niklaus Kohler. (2011). “Deconstruction, demolition and destruction,” Building Research & Information, 39:4, 327-332
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). 2015. Deconstruction Rapid Assessment Tool, 2015.
  • United States Forest Products Laboratory (US-FPL). (2014). “Research in Progress: Urban Woody Biomass Utilization for Economic Development.” USDA Forest Service.
  • United States General Services Administration. 1991. “Disaster Management: Recovery of Historic Building Materials.” Preservation Note 12.
  • Van Hinte, Ed and Césare Peeren, Jan Jongert. (2007). Superuse: Constructing New Architecture by Shortcutting Material Flows. Rotterdam: 1010 Publishers.
  • Yuan, H., & Shen, L. (2011). Trend of the research on construction and demolition waste management. Waste management31(4), 670-679.
  • Yeheyis, Muluken et al. (2013). “An Overview of Construction and Demolition Waste Management in Canada: A Lifecycle Analysis Approach to Sustainability.” Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy 15: 81-91.


International case studies


  • Crowther, P. (2000). Building deconstruction in Australia.
  • Dantata, N., Touran, A., & Wang, J. (2005). An analysis of cost and duration for deconstruction and demolition of residential buildings in Massachusetts. Resources, Conservation and Recycling44(1), 1-15.
  • Duran, X., Lenihan, H., & O’Regan, B. (2006). A model for assessing the economic viability of construction and demolition waste recycling—the case of Ireland. Resources, Conservation and Recycling46(3), 302-320.
  • Fatta, D., Papadopoulos, A., Avramikos, E., Sgourou, E., Moustakas, K., Kourmoussis, F., … & Loizidou, M. (2003). Generation and management of construction and demolition waste in Greece—an existing challenge. Resources, Conservation and Recycling40(1), 81-91.
  • Kartam, N., Al-Mutairi, N., Al-Ghusain, I., & Al-Humoud, J. (2004). Environmental management of construction and demolition waste in Kuwait. Waste Management24(10), 1049-1059.
  • Poon, C. S., Ann, T. W., & Ng, L. H. (2001). On-site sorting of construction and demolition waste in Hong Kong. Resources, conservation and recycling32(2), 157-172.
  • Saghafi, M. D., & Teshnizi, Z. A. H. (2011). Building deconstruction and material recovery in Iran: an analysis of major determinants. Procedia Engineering21, 853-863.



This bibliography is compiled by Susan Ross, a registered architect and Assistant Professor at Carleton University. She has worked  in the private sector, held teaching and research positions in Canadian universities, and both volunteered and been employed by local, national and international heritage organizations. In her most recent work prior to working atCarleton, she was senior conservation architect in the federal government.