Deconstruction Program

Increasing waste diversion by re-using and recycling building materials...

innovation icon

A Deconstruction Program is an Innovation goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).

Develop a deconstruction program to divert waste from building clean outs, renovations, and decommissions from the landfill.

Goal: Develop a deconstruction program on campus to divert construction waste from the landfill.

This action expands construction waste diversion practices for capital building projects, with a specific focus on deconstruction. Deconstruction is the process of systematically removing a building or structure by taking it apart in the reverse order of construction, with a goal of maximizing re-use and recycling of building materials and increasing the diversion of campus waste from the landfill.

The Waste Team is proposing to partner with the PSCC Buildings Team and Facilities Contracts Office to provide the necessary tools and resources to increase waste diversion in the demolition or construction phases of capital building projects. These tools include access to local and regional vendors for demolition and deconstruction, sample vendor contracts, project manager toolboxes, and other resources to be determined in conjunction with the Buildings Team.

Implementing a robust deconstruction program on campus should result in improved waste diversion percentages per project, and could result in additional points for LEED certification of the particular building being renovated or constructed.

This action will involve working with the local and regional construction industry, re-use vendors, and recycle vendors – and could build mutually beneficial relationships with these area businesses.

Next Steps

Work with Buildings Team to:

  • Study current and past Cornell capital projects to identify opportunities for improvement in waste diversion for waste streams that are not currently captured (for example, wood, drywall, windows, doors, etc.).
  • Benchmark capital project construction practices of peer institutions that are working to achieve LEED certifications.
  • Identify regional deconstruction vendors and conduct a formal Request for Information (RFI) process.
  • Work with the Facilities Contracts Office to incorporate increased diversion goals into campus capital projects.


From a single bottom line perspective it is anticipated this action will have a (financial) point of diminishing returns whereby increased labor costs will outweigh the landfill savings. Where this threshold lies will be dependent on the project type, construction site, and waste diversion goals. The RFI process will serve as a valuable tool to help determine accurate financial cost estimates.