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Deconstruction requirements

The City of Portland requires some homes to be deconstructed rather than demolished.
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Policy overview

The City of Portland's Deconstruction Ordinance requires certain projects seeking a demolition permit to be fully deconstructed instead of mechanically demolished. 

All single-dwelling structures (houses and duplexes) in all zones are subject to the Deconstruction Ordinance if:

  • The structure was built in 1940 or earlier; or
  • The structure is designated as a historic resource subject to the demolition review or 120-day delay provisions of Title 33.

Certified Deconstruction Contractor must perform the deconstruction work. Certified Deconstruction Contractors are trained to safely and effectively disassemble the house and salvage valuable materials for reuse. 

Once you have selected a deconstruction contractor for your project, they must submit a Pre-Deconstruction Form before your demolition permit can be issued. Only certified contractors have access to the Pre-Deconstruction Form.

Frequently asked questions

Permitting questions

Q: What kind of permit do I need to take down my house if it is subject to the deconstruction ordinance?

A: You need a demolition permit. No separate permit is required for deconstructing a house.

Q: Is the permit fee more for a deconstruction?

A: No, the fee for a demolition permit is fixed and how the building comes down does not change the price.

Q: I called for my final inspections, but the inspector won’t sign off because I’m missing something called Deconstruction Documentation on the permit, what’s that?

A: Your deconstruction contractor will submit a Post-Deconstruction Form at the end of the project and will identify all salvaged material and submit receipts for what was salvaged and what was recycled/disposed. Once this form is submitted and approved by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), final inspections can be scheduled.

Contractor questions

Q: Why do I have to use a Certified Deconstruction Contractor?

A: Certified Deconstruction Contractors have been trained in safe and effective techniques for dismantling a structure. They are also accountable if they do not meet the deconstruction requirements.

Q: Can I deconstruct my own house?

A: No, only Certified Deconstruction Contractors can deconstruct your house. You can work with them to identify things you can do to help cut costs.

Q: What if I don’t have a contractor selected for my demolition permit, can I still apply for my permit?

A: Yes, you can still apply for the demolition permit without a Certified Deconstruction Contractor, however your permit will not be issued until one is selected and they have submitted a Pre-Deconstruction Form for the project.

Exemptions from deconstruction

Q: My house is in terrible shape and nothing is worth salvaging, do I still need to have it deconstructed?

A: Your house may appear in poor condition (dated fixtures, poor paint, etc.), however the framing behind the walls is the primary element of value and likely well preserved. If you think more than 50% of the framing (interior and exterior) is not suitable for salvage (reuse) because of fire damage, rot, or mold, then you can request an exemption. Email us to discuss.

Q: My house is ready to collapse, and I think it’s too dangerous to deconstruct, can I get an exemption?

A: You can request an exemption if you think the house is structurally unsafe or hazardous to human life. Email us to discuss.

City code and ordinances

  • Adopted Feb. 17, 2016, this resolution directs BPS to develop code language for new deconstruction requirements that go into effect in October 2016.
  • Adopted in July 2016, effective Oct. 31, 2016. Includes Exhibit A.

Policy history

On July 6, 2016, Portland City Council adopted an ordinance, including code language, which requires certain projects seeking a demolition permit to be fully deconstructed instead of mechanically demolished. With Council’s unanimous approval of that ordinance, Portland became the first city in the country to ensure that valuable materials are salvaged for reuse instead of crushed and landfilled. 

Building on the success of the initial ordinance, Portland City Council adopted an amendment on November 13, 2019, which raises the year-built threshold from 1916 to 1940. The amendment went into effect January 20, 2020.