Connecting blighted Great Lakes cities to boost economy

By ABIRGAIL HEATH

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Great Lakes connect many blighted cities in a network that could supply recycled building materials.

That’s just one way that domicology could spur the region’s economic development, according to a recent report by the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development and the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.

Domicology is a new term coined by experts looking to repurpose materials from old buildings to avoid large-scale waste and high landfill costs.

Great Lakes cities suffering significant abandonment include Detroit, Milwaukee, Toledo, Cleveland and Buffalo. They can provide salvage shipped across the Great Lakes to a reprocessing center, said George Berghorn, an MSU assistant professor of construction management. Continue reading

Muskegon new ‘Deconstruction Hub’ of the Great Lakes? 

By LUCY SCHROEDER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Muskegon once was called the “Lumber Queen of the World.”  It’s been called “the Port City” and the “Riviera of the Midwest.”

Now, city officials hope to add “Deconstruction Hub of the Great Lakes” to the city’s titles.

In the mid-1880s — the peak of the lumbering era — Muskegon was a bustling hub for processing logs into timber shipped across the Great Lakes region.  Chicago was rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1871 with timber from Muskegon.

Advocates of the city’s port would like to see some of that timber come back. That could happen if Muskegon becomes a hub for deconstructing some of those same cities it helped build.

Deconstruction is taking apart abandoned buildings and salvaging usable parts—as opposed to simply demolishing them. It is part of the larger study of domicology, which looks at the political, technological, sociological and economical aspects of structural abandonment. Continue reading

Recycle your home?

By LUCY SCHROEDER

Capital News Service

LANSING — You may recycle in your home, but did you know the building itself can be recycled?

A group of researchers at Michigan State University studying the science of domicology — the term they use to describe the policies, practices and consequences of abandoned structures — are examining how wood from abandoned buildings can be reused.

The average Michigan home holds about 6,000 board feet of lumber, enough to fill two school buses, according to George Berghorn, an assistant professor of construction management at MSU. And the state has 244,000 abandoned homes.

The lumber in abandoned buildings includes a mix of aesthetic products such as doors, siding and windows that can be sold as salvage. However most of the wood in homes is structural material used to construct the frame of a building — the support for the walls and roof. Continue reading

Reclaiming buildings can create jobs

By LUCY SCHROEDER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Sometimes deconstruction can yield surprising finds—like human body parts.

Workers with Reclaim Detroit, a nonprofit deconstruction organization, once saw a human arm among other trash in the basement of a blighted house.

At first, they thought there was a body in the house, said Jeremy Haines, its executive director. On closer inspection, workers realized it was just a mannequin.

Fake body parts aside, the house the organization was taking apart was one among many abandoned houses in Detroit. According to a U.S. Census five-year estimate, more than 183,000 homes in Detroit are vacant — accounting for 75 percent of the vacant houses in the state. Continue reading

Researchers seek new ways to salvage abandoned buildings

By DARIEN VELASQUEZ

Capital News Service

LANSING — Constructing, remodeling and demolishing buildings have significant environmental impacts: Natural resources are used to build them and large amounts of waste are sent to landfills when they come down.

What do you call that?

Researchers at Michigan State University use the word “domicology” to define the study of policies, practices and consequences of what happens to empty buildings.

It’s a term that doesn’t officially exist – yet. But George Berghorn, a self-described domicologist and assistant professor of construction management at MSU, is working hard to make it one. Continue reading