Demolition is a double-edged sword, and it brings to communities both a host of potential benefits and potential problems.
New Jersey has a large construction industry; construction makes up over 15% of our State’s GDP. Demolition is a keystone of the construction industry—and to halt urban sprawl, buildings must be demolished (either partially or fully).
In this article, we’ll explore both sides of demolition—how our communities are adversely affected by it and how they benefit from it. From there, we’ll look at ways we can rethink New Jersey’s demolition industry so that we can all reap greater benefits from it.
The Disadvantages of Demolition
The Direct Costs of Demolition
First, we must consider the literal costs of demolition. Contractors have to be paid, the old building materials need to be disposed of, and time and money must be spent to obtain permits.
Ideally, some of these costs (especially permitting costs) are recouped by communities through city services. When not-for-profits and businesses that are the staples of communities must shoulder these costs, however, it can act both as a disincentive to demolish old buildings and as a burden that prevents pillars of the communities from building back better.
Disruptions to the Community
Then, there are the various indirect costs to the community. The first of these: Disruptions. Community pillars can’t operate when their place of business is being demolished; they may provide services at another location, but these services are often scaled down.
Demolition services can also block roads and disrupt utilities like water and sewage. This is particularly problematic in densely populated communities. New Jersey is the most densely populated State (With Guttenberg and Union City being the most densely populated cities in the United States). This means disruptions caused by demolition have a disproportionate impact on people living in New Jersey—the denser the population, the more people are impacted by the disturbances.
Lower Property Values
Demolition can also drastically lower property values. Few people want to move next to an abandoned lot, and areas in which demolitions are frequent are plagued by noise and dust pollution. Low-income communities may be particularly affected by this, as derelict buildings (which couldn’t be demolished due to the high cost of demolition) are torn down but not replaced.
The environmental impacts of demolition can’t be understated, either. Demolition can contaminate both air quality and waterways. Again, these environmental costs tend to be borne by low-income communities, especially when those communities are placed next to landfills to which construction and demolition waste are diverted.
The Advantages of Demolition
The downsides to demolition in New Jersey are, of course, only half the story. With demolition comes construction, and with construction comes a myriad of benefits:
Demolition creates jobs directly—you need someone to demolish the building, after all. A number of workers are required for any demolition project. Workers are also needed to transport equipment and materials, to check for and remove hazardous materials like asbestos, and more.
Once the demolition is complete, there are even more opportunities for job creation—ideally, something will be constructed on the newly vacant land.
When community pillars demolish old buildings, they can build back better. These new buildings might offer better or larger facilities, more modern insulation and electrical, renewable energy, or other features.
Remember—not all demolitions are complete demolitions (sometimes called razes). Demolition is an important part of most renovations, and you can often demolish parts of a building while still retaining features of historical importance, like facades.
Increased Property Values
Derelict buildings decrease property values. While demolishing buildings can lower property values, they go up again once new properties are built—if everything goes well, their post-construction value will be even higher than their pre-demolition value.
Rethinking Demolition in New Jersey
New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law
The State of New Jersey is taking environmental justice seriously with a new law to protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental impacts.
Construction and demolition companies can play an important role in mitigating environmental harm. By using strategies to reduce environmental pollution, divert waste from landfills, and reuse old materials, contractors can help restore justice to communities throughout New Jersey.
Green demolition is a term that encompasses a variety of techniques used to mitigate the environmental impact of demolition. These techniques include:
- Diverting materials from landfills
- Using dust control to stop air pollution
- Preventing chemicals from running into nearby water sources
- Deconstructing elements of the building for reuse
- And more
By using these techniques, demolition contractors can drastically reduce the impact of demolition on communities in New Jersey.
Explosives, heavy machinery, and other tools are often used in demolition. This can lead to excessive waste and run-off; much of this waste becomes impossible to reuse. In deconstruction, buildings and their elements are taken apart piece by piece; they can easily be recycled or reused.
Demolition brings both positive and negative impacts to New Jersey communities, but by employing green construction techniques, contractors can mitigate the negatives and highlight the positives. For commercial demolition in NJ, call Bella.