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To build a house, you need materials such as bricks, tiles, and shingles. But making those materials uses a lot of energy, which generates carbon pollution.

If a building is later demolished and those materials end up in a landfill, the energy that went into making them is wasted.

So instead of demolishing condemned homes, the city of Pittsburgh plans to start deconstructing them. In a pilot program, city-owned properties will be taken apart so some materials can be salvaged and re-used.

“We are able to benefit the environment by keeping materials out of the landfill … then removing the need to create more materials because we already have plenty that exist,” says Alicia Carberry, an operations assistant for the city.

She says the benefits go beyond the environment. Deconstruction is done step by step, like construction in reverse.

“Since this process is done by hand, it takes more people to do the work,” Carberry says. “So we can literally create jobs with this and make those jobs known to the neighbors where the number of abandoned, condemned homes are the most prevalent.”

So she says deconstruction can help communities and the climate.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media