Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Winter 2010

Grants to Help Communities “Deconstruct” Abandoned Buildings

A recent change in state law is providing new incentives to small communities to “deconstruct” abandoned buildings.

The goal for making this change in NDEQ’s waste grants program is to further encourage the recycling of building materials and decrease the amount of demolition material that is being disposed of in landfills, according to David Haldeman, NDEQ Waste Management Division Administrator.

In the spring of 2009, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB180, which created an additional category or type of grant project that can be funded under NDEQ’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Act. Specifically, the new law makes the reimbursement of some of the costs associated with the deconstruction of abandoned buildings in small communities an eligible grant project.

The concept of “building deconstruction” refers to the physical dismantlement of a building’s components to recover the materials for reuse, recycling, or other waste management options. It might simply be thought of as the reverse of construction of a building, or taking a building apart piece by piece.

The size of the political subdivisions identified as being eligible are cities of the second class, villages, and counties of 5,000 or fewer in population. Deconstruction costs related to the recovery and processing of recyclable or reusable materials from the abandoned buildings will be eligible for reimbursement.

The first round of annual grant applications is due by February 1, 2010.

Although some building deconstruction has occurred in Nebraska in the past, the primary method of getting rid of old buildings has been to simply raze them and then haul the waste to either municipal landfills or landfills that are specifically permitted to receive construction and demolition waste.

“Disposal in a permitted landfill is a lawful method for getting rid of a building; however, the department is looking for ways to support and further encourage recycling and reuse over disposal,” Haldeman said. “Most buildings have components like metal, lumber, block, brick, or fixtures that can be sold or salvaged for reuse or recycled into other products. We think there is a fair amount of potential to recover these materials, which is a better alternative to placing them in a landfill.”

Deconstruction grants may also help address other solid waste concerns. Every year, NDEQ’s solid waste program receives complaints about the illegal disposal of building demolition waste. Typically, illegal disposal occurs when disposal options are expensive or there are few management/recycling options to choose from. Promoting building deconstruction should help make the public aware of one other management option that can be considered.

In addition, NDEQ believes that building deconstruction would compliment another existing program that is designed to assist communities interested in redevelopment. NDEQ receives money from the Environmental Protection Agency that is specifically designated for land redevelopment projects. This money is primarily used for assessing sites for contamination. The clearing of unused properties of old structures is one part of redevelopment that the federal dollars cannot effectively address.

Every year the Department of Environmental Quality receives calls from small communities inquiring whether there is any financial assistance available to help demolish abandoned buildings. A reason for this is that the demolition and disposal costs of a structure or building is so prohibitive. NDEQ recognizes that abandoned buildings can be a safety hazard and contribute to economic blight in small communities; providing financial assistance to these small communities is something the agency has not been able to do in the past.

Those interested in the grants process should contact NDEQ’s Waste Grants and Planning Unit at (402) 471-0273.

On our web site
The application “Deconstruction of Abandoned Buildings” can be found in Publications/ Integrated Waste Management/ Grant Information.
Direct URL:

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
1200 "N" Street, Suite 400
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
(402) 471-2186