Got a hammer? Got gloves? Deconstruction grants up to $5,000 are available for homeowners or developers of properties located within Hennepin County built before 1970.
The work must be on residential properties, including houses and apartment buildings up to four units. Garages and sheds are ineligible for funding. The total amount of each grant is based on $2 per square foot of material salvaged through deconstruction.
Applications are received on a rolling basis: 60% of Hennepin County’s grant funds for 2021 are still available.
The goal of the one-year-old program is to incentivize deconstruction as opposed to mechanical demolition. Deconstruction means dismantling a building piece by piece, using hand tools.
Why go to all that trouble? To preserve building materials intact, so they can be used again.
Hennepin County environmental protection specialist Olivia Cashman manages the grant program. She said, “Before mechanical demolition took off, this is how buildings were taken down. We didn’t invent deconstruction, but we’re trying to bring it back.”
Keeping usable material
According to Cashman, “In the first year, we funded 16 projects. More than $65,000 of grant money was disbursed, and about 500 tons of construction material was diverted from the landfill. Deconstruction reduces waste going to a landfill, makes high quality, reusable materials available to community members, provides jobs, and supports local reuse stores.”
Some of the reclaimed material, like trim, doors, or flooring harvested from old growth forests, can’t be reproduced because of the age of the wood.
What’s the difference between old growth and new growth wood? Old growth wood was harvested before 1940, and has had time on its side. Because of its age, it developed tight growth rings, dense heartwood, and is high in pitch – which makes it naturally insect and rot resistant. The new growth wood used in new construction hasn’t had time to develop these attributes.
The Deconstruction Grant Program is an opportunity to put old growth wood products back into the marketplace.
Nuts and bolts of program
According to program guidelines, the size of the structure or area of renovation must be 500 square feet or larger. For a full structural removal, the entire building must be 500 square feet or larger. For renovation projects, the combined area of rooms being renovated must be 500 square feet or larger (for example: 300-square-foot kitchen and 200-square-foot living room).
Deconstruction must take place after the agreement to issue grant funds is established. Grant funding cannot be used for deconstruction work that has already been completed.
Grant projects are subject to a pre-demolition inspection conducted by Hennepin County staff, and applicants must verify viable reuse option for materials by checking that salvage organizations will accept their material. Two such organizations in the neighborhood are the Habitat for Humanity Re-Use Store and Better Futures. Both are located on Minnehaha Ave.
Applicants will be notified within five business days of the county receiving their application. The county will develop a contract with the homeowner or developer outlining the details for reimbursement.
If awarded, funds will be dispersed upon completion of deconstruction work and verification of material being reused, recycled, or disposed.
Itemized receipts from reuse retailers must be submitted to receive funding. Documentation showing weight of material sent to a Hennepin County approved construction and demolition waste recycling facility is also required.
One recipient’s story
Alex Brogle is the owner of Aberdeen Companies, a development and construction company that builds community-focused, multi-family housing with an intimate feel. The company’s goal is to provide a strong sense of home and place for tenants.
Brogle and his business partner bought a two-story brick home at 3136 Minnehaha Ave. last year. They received a Hennepin County Deconstruction Grant to take apart and recycle salvageable materials from the 1908 house, which was sandwiched in-between apartment buildings on either side.
Their vision, which is now well-underway, is to create eco-centered, market-rate rental housing in a newly constructed three-story building that will contain 18 units.
He said, “From the beginning, we saw this project as being geared toward eco-conscious tenants. It made sense to recycle as many of the historic materials as possible. There was a lot of old woodwork: a built in buffet, knee wall book cases with columns, paneled doors, and more than 800 square feet of hardwood flooring.
“There are certain houses that deserve to be repurposed. Because this house was surrounded by commercial properties already, we think it will help the mix of housing in the neighborhood. It also makes it possible for 18 individuals or families to live on a city lot that previously gave shelter to only one.”
Hennepin County staff is available to determine project specifications and eligibility, and to answer questions about their deconstruction grants. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.hennepin.us/deconstruction for more information.