Graham Kilmer

Can Bauman and Kovac Create Jobs?

Their legislation would require pre-1930 homes to be deconstructed, not demolished

By - Sep 20th, 2017 02:26 pm
City owned home at 2817-19 North 22nd Street. Photo from the City of Milwaukee.

City owned home at 2817-19 North 22nd Street. Photo from the City of Milwaukee.

Aldermen Nik Kovac and Robert Bauman propose an ordinance that would save historic materials from houses slated for demolition, and potentially expand the market for salvaged building materials.

The ordinance would see homes built in or before 1929 deconstructed and their building materials salvaged in lieu of demolition.

Ald. Bauman said the proposal was principally about job creation. But added it was also a solution to some of the adverse environmental impacts of demolition and also a way for the city to save money on landfill fees. The ordinance was held-over Tuesday by the committee on Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development to resolve some pending legal issues the Department of City Development wanted ironed out before it was voted on.

The policy is partly modeled on a similar one in Portland, Oregon, Bauman said, where a “very robust” market for salvaged materials has actually lowered the cost of deconstruction.

Allowing contractors to sell valuable salvaged building materials could drive the prices to deconstruct down as material sales drive down the net cost of deconstructing. The dream scenario being that demolition contractors actually pay to deconstruct a building for its materials.

An example of that nearly happening was the Tower Automotive building on the north side where it was, “Demolished at almost no net cost, because the value of salvageable materials was so great.”

Right now the market for salvaged building materials is relatively weak, Kovac said, because there isn’t a reliable supply. He said this ordinance could “prime the market” like other cities have done.

As far as the materials are concerned, 1929 was chosen as the cutout date because, “Residential construction stopped not only in Milwaukee but throughout the United States in or about 1929 and didn’t really start up again until after World War II,” Bauman said.

So homes built before 1930 represent 43 percent of the cities one to four family housing stock, he said. And the construction material changed significantly between 1929 and the mid 1940’s when building picked up again in both materials and specifications.

The ordinance will kick in whenever the city is set to demolish a structure or a private contractor seeks a permit to demolish. And there are exceptions to the mandate to deconstruct if there are safety considerations or the salvageable materials have been damaged by something like a fire.

While Bauman and Kovac are both historic preservation hawks in Milwaukee, because demolition and deconstruction jobs employ individuals from underserved communities in the city Bauman said “I do see this primarily as a job creation tool.”

Categories: Politics, Real Estate

4 thoughts on “Can Bauman and Kovac Create Jobs?”

  1. David Ciepluch says:

    If you go into a newly constructed home today it is essentially constructed with glued together wood chips. Any moisture related problems subject the home to warping and mold.

    Older pre-1929 homes have old growth real wood lumber from Oak and White Pine.

    A number of nonprofit organizations have taken on major renovations of some of these older homes and it can take anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to provide a decent upgrade with energy efficient mechanical systems, insulation, air sealing, roofing, windows, plumbing, solve basement moisture problems, drainage, landscaping, removal of asbestos and making it lead safe, new laterals, etc. Many of these old homes are energy hogs using anywhere from double to four times the amount of energy as a newly constructed home of similar space.

    Thousands of labor jobs could be created in WI with major upgrades to all buildings, and reduce imports of fossil fuel energy by $7 billion annually. This area could be stimulated with a tripling of Focus on Energy funds and targeted to comprehensive renovation including solar electric addition, and maximize thermal mass storage of energy on time of use rates, a carbon tax on fossil fuels for tax credits on renovations, and a sales tax exemption on local labor and sourced materials used in renovation.

  2. Jim M says:

    Please explain : where did the $7 billion dollar figure come from !!

  3. Ted Reiff says:

    I would like to politely disagree with the Alderman. I am President of The ReUse People of America, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to reduce the solid waste stream and change the way the built environment is renewed by salvaging building materials and providing them for reuse.” Founded in 1993, we are a licensed contractor and also operate two of our own retail/warehouses and have partnerships with a dozen of other contractors and retailers throughout the US. in our 24 years our crews have deconstructed approximately 3000 residential structures – some only a remodeling but the majority were complete removals of the structure. Only on 5 occasions was deconstruction completed for less than the cost of demolition: 3 were on naval bases, one was a single family residence and the other was the removal of the three major sets for the movies “Matrix Reloaded” and “Matrix Revolutions”. In all but one case we lost money on the projects. Matrix was the exception and that was because we diverted 95.2 percent of the materials from landfills. Our nearest competitor, a demolition company, had a higher bid due to disposal fees at local landfills/transfer stations.

    If a licensed and bonded contractor is to bid the job without paying workers cash under the table and skirting workers compensation laws then it is impossible to compete.

    In addition to wages and wage burden, the reasons are simple:
    1. Materials need to be handled carefully, lumber has to be denailed, sorted by size and species and then transported
    to a sales facility
    2. Rent and utilities have to be paid on the facility
    3. Sales and yard people have to be paid
    4. Advertisements have to be paid – including the time and cost of posting on electronic media
    5. Other facility costs need to be included such as maintenance and insurance
    6. Oh yes, and the last nasty thing that needs to be paid is (drum-roll please) – Profit (both to the contractor and the seller)
    7. What about the cost of market risk? Yes, there are many darn little things that keep cropping up in a private business

  4. David Ciepluch says:

    Jim M. – WI imports over $13 Billion annually in fossil energy (natural gas, coal, and gasoline and diesel). This is money that leaves the state forever.

    WI could cut its energy consumption in half and get the same amount of work and comfort with integrated renovation of buildings that includes consumer owned energy efficiency, solar electric, and thermal mass storage of energy with heat pump water heaters and furnaces, ice making AC equipment, and plug in electric cars on time of use rates. This is proven with rates of return on the investment made of 10-30% annually.

    Utilities and energy companies fear this approach since it cuts directly into their bottom line, they lose control over supply and price. It offers the consumer the first real competition in over 100 years of monopoly control. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission is supposed to offer consumers protections from the monopoly of utilities and energy, but since 2010, have granted utilities any request they make for their total benefit, and not that of the consumer.

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