The Grand Demolition
From 2016 to 2021 Metro Vancouver was the fastest growing metro area in Canada. The region welcomed 179,000 new residents -- a 7.3% population increase. This growth, which is projected to continue, is putting incredible pressure on our housing market supply. In response local governments have adopted policies promoting residential densification.
From 2017 to 2021 85% of new housing starts were multi-family dwellings, i.e. duplexes, townhomes, apartment buildings.
To make space for these higher density residential projects every year ~2,800 single family dwellings (SFDs) are demolished across Metro Vancouver. Another ~1,000 SFDs are demolished on Vancouver Island each year.
HOME RELOCATION & REPURPOSING:
AN ENVIRONMENTAL & ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
We estimate 20% of the 3,800 single family homes slated for demolition each year across coastal BC (760) are in good to excellent condition and worth trying to physically relocate and repurpose.
Some of the SFDs being bulldozed are charming character homes built over 80 years ago.
Some are well-renovated bungalows and ranchers from the 1950s and 1960s.
Some are brand new modern homes built within the last 10 years.
These homes are not waste, they're just wasted.
British Columbia's Grand Demolition is both
environmentally and economically wasteful.
The majority of SFDs are being demolished by developers seeking to construct higher density residential projects. The existing homes are an obstacle, not an asset, in the view of these developers.
To the contrary, we estimate there are hundreds of millions of dollars worth of good to excellent condition homes torn down each year.
Click here to view a small sample of the homes we've identified as slated for demolition.
The average cost to relocate a home (above grade floor joists and up) is roughly $100 / sq. ft.
This relocation cost, while significantly lower than new construction costs, is rising. Temporarily dropping overhead power (BC Hydro), Fiber Optic (Telus) and trolly (Translink) lines to facilitate a home relocation is the primary logistical and financial barrier. Trees lining municipal streets is another key physical barrier.
The further a SFD is from a barge site the more costly, and complicated, it is to save, relocate and repurpose a home. This is particularly true for larger two-story homes.
The built environment constraints are locking in thousands of high value single family homes.
The end result is more embodied carbon, more building waste, more good homes ending up in our local landfills.
Metro Vancouver, on a per capita basis, is one of the building demolition capitals of the world.
Forty (40) percent of our local landfills are full of demolished building materials.
The average 2,000 sq. ft home demolished produces roughly 100,600 KG of material waste.
2,800 SFDs demolished in Metro Vancouver produce roughly 281,000,000 KG of material waste each year*.
*Metro Vancouver uses an average of 2,000 sq. ft per SFD
Each 2,000 sq. ft home diverted from the landfill and repurposed for new owners mitigates up to 65,000 KG of CO2.
Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG) Waste
Accordingly to the International Energy Agency new building construction is responsible for nearly one-third of total global energy consumption.
The Upfront Carbon + End of Life Carbon produced during the production + construction + demolition stages of a medium sized SFD (A1-A5 + C1-C4 in the graph below) is estimated to equal 354 KG CO2 /m2.
For a 2,000 sq. ft. (185 sq. metre) SFD this equates to 65,000 KG of CO2 emitted.
Every home relocated instead of demolished saves most of the End of Life Carbon (C stage) production. More importantly relocating and repurposing a home saves most of the Upfront Carbon (A stage) production. Upfront Carbon is 70%-80% of the whole life cycle emission of a SFD.
By repurposing an entire home we eliminate most of the production and construction stage GHG emissions*.
*This assumes the relocated home is kept largely intact and no major renovations or additions. It's in our interest to find, relocate and repurpose high value homes that are in turnkey condition as is.
Relocating & Repurposing Good Homes
Slated for Demolition
Affordable Housing Supply Waste
A key motivation for urban densification across Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria is to address population growth, higher demand for housing and a housing supply shortage. CMHC estimates Canada needs 5.8 million new homes by 2030 to tackle the housing affordability crisis.
Paradoxically, roughly 760 SFDs in good to excellent condition are demolished each year across Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver.
These 700+ high-value homes could be relocated and repurposed in exurb coastal communities, i.e. Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, in as little as 8 - 12 weeks for new owners for ~50% less than the cost of a new home build.
SFDs can be relocated for as low as $80 - $100 / sq. ft if there are minimal barriers along the move-out route, i.e. overhead power/trolly lines.
Home Relocated & Repurposed: Example
While there are many game-changing economic and environmental benefits to saving good homes from demolition there are also many barriers and obstacles.
The "Home Waste Prevention: Blueprint for Change" report outlines the opportunities for all levels of Government (municipal, provincial, federal) and key stakeholders (BC Hyrdo, Translink, Telus) to enable relocation and repurposing.
Here is a summary.