THE OAKLAND PRESS: Four advantages of Revive Pontiac’s deconstruction program

By Anthony Spak

POSTED: 09/12/16, 5:49 PM 

It’s a sight too often seen in the neighborhoods of Pontiac - an old and dilapidated home with windows boarded and a roof caving in, unfit to live in and unsafe to live near.

Revive Pontiac is a deconstruction project partnership between The City of Pontiac, the Oakland County Treasurer’s office and the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency that is changing the landscape of blighted Pontiac landscapes and changing the lives of Pontiac’s workforce.

Deconstruction is an alternative to demolition in which materials from blighted homes are saved and repurposed rather than sent to the trash.

“Deconstruction is demolition’s smarter cousin,” said Thomas Ferguson, program director for Revive Pontiac, borrowing a quote from Oakland County treasurer Andy Meisner.

Officials from the agency and City Hall, including Mayor Deirdre Waterman, visited one of the project’s deconstruction sites on Monday, Sept. 12. The home was located at 31 Portage St. and had been in the process of deconstruction for four days by workers from Revive Pontiac’s pilot program.

“Our goal is to develop [Pontiac’s] workforce, eliminate blight and reclaim or recycle usable materials,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson oversees deconstruction sites and helps to teach the program’s trainees the skills they need to successfully take apart a house. He says trainees usually begin as a “blank slate” and are taught the tips of the trade through the program.

“We’re taking [Pontiac’s] past into the future,” said Fred Hatcher, a deconstruction worker with Revive Pontiac.

Here are five ways in which deconstruction is benefitting the City of Pontiac:

1. WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

A goal of Revive Pontiac is to provide job opportunities and education for the unemployed or underemployed. Individuals complete a 12-week course that involves earning certificates in deconstruction practices, blight removal and job safety that can all be used for future career opportunities.

2. ERADICATING BLIGHT

Mayor Waterman said that there were 918 dangerous residential homes in Pontiac when she took office in 2013. To date, two-thirds of these homes have been deconstructed or demolished. These homes are unsafe to live in and are often home to squatters who engage in “devious behavior” during their stays, according to the Mayor. She believes that this process has contributed to rising Pontiac property values, which jumped 20 percent in value last year.

3. HARVESTING USABLE PRODUCTS

Deconstruction refers to the process of tearing down a home while saving and reusing some of its valuable pieces. The aged Michigan timber used to build homes in Pontiac can be used to make tables, chairs and guitars rather than being thrown into the scrap heap destined for a landfill, according to members of Revive Pontiac.

4. DECREASING THE LANDFILL

Deconstruction provides the ability to rid the city of dangerous structures with a lessened negative environmental impact than demolition. Materials from houses such as intact doors, windows, light fixtures and wood can still be reused and repurposed for future use. Demolition, by contrast, results in these types of materials being thrown into a landfill without any further use.

“[Deconstruction] is not a cost, it is an investment,” Hatcher said.

For more information visit www.RevivePontiac.org.

Read the article on The Oakland Press' website here.