Beginning of Tour - Collegetown Bagels / Cornell Performing Arts Center

Waste(d) Imagination Tour

Beginning of Tour - Collegetown Bagels / Cornell Performing Arts Center

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Just Places Lab


Tips: Feel free to walk, bike, or otherwise move through this tour. Some of the points are far and may take more time and energy. The numbers provide a rough indicator of the best way to move through the tour, but you can explore them as is convenient for you. If you are plugged into Wi-Fi or have unlimited data, watch the YouTube video about the Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development network at this stop.

420 College Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850

Is it Waste Imagination or Wasted Imagination? With shifts in public imagination, city policies, and practices within design, planning, and construction, we can rethink waste completely.

  1. When buildings are demolished, their components end up in the landfill. That's Wasted Imagination.
  2. If cities become circular systems, waste is eliminated. Instead of throwing buildings away, buildings and building materials can be saved to be reused again. That's Waste Imagination.

The Waste(d) Imagination tour will guide you to physical sites emblematic of a spectrum of building practices ranging from destructive to sustainable.

This tour centers on the issues with demolition and aims to present several alternatives. The United States generates more than 600 million tons of construction and demolition waste annually, 90% of which comes from demolition. Demolition can be defined as “the partial or complete destroying, tearing down, or wrecking of any building or structure.” This is how most buildings are removed in the U.S. and in Ithaca today. Heavy machinery is used to collapse the building in on itself, rendering the materials valueless and leading to their disposal in landfills.

Demolition is so common because it is quick, relatively inexpensive, and requires very little labor. But demolition has many negative effects as well. Demolition creates a substantial amount of waste, much of which is reusable, recyclable, or, in the case of old buildings, irreplaceable. Demolition also creates toxic dust that can spread to surrounding areas and compromise public health. And by wasting materials that still have a useful lifespan, demolition furthers mining, logging, and the production of new building materials, contributing to climate change.

Deconstruction is a preferable replacement for demolition. Deconstruction can be described as the careful process of disassembling a structure to minimize the damage to component materials, enabling them to be saved and reused. Though typically more expensive, deconstruction prevents landfill waste, produces reclaimed material, and minimizes the spread of harmful fugitive dust. Further, deconstruction creates comparatively more jobs, produces affordable used building materials, and contributes to the shift toward a circular economy. A handful of U.S. cities have even passed legislation that requires some buildings to be deconstructed rather than mechanically demolished.

Deconstruction should be viewed as an alternative to demolition but should still be a last-resort strategy for buildings that cannot be salvaged. From many perspectives, it is better to keep an existing building in good condition for as long as possible and adapt it through reuse or expansion if its functional needs change. If a building must be removed, it may be advantageous to relocate the whole building so as not to waste the materials, energy, and labor embodied within the existing structure. Only once these alternatives are exhausted should deconstruction be considered. Only if a building is unsafe to deconstruct does demolition become a more viable option for removal. This tour will provide good examples of all these practices to demonstrate how they change the built environment in Ithaca.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Waste(d) Imagination Tour


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