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Salvage city

The ‘salvage city’ would be a form of ‘urban mining’ – salvaging of materials, period details and architectural devices could fund demolition while providing resources for sale.

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As cities shrink and sites are slated for demolition, a costly process of demolition and urban consolidation begins, this process could be reversed with the goal of becoming a profitable industry through salvage. There may be a business case in some areas for greater value to be ‘mined’ from a ‘decommissioned’ dwelling than can be earnt from its sale as a standing house.

Unfortunately not all material will be appropriate for salvage and this approach could be carried further through the introduction of a sustainable energy network fuelled by combustible demolition waste. Trigeneration (decentralized combined heat and power plants) fuelled by unsalvageable combustible material from demolished dwellings could help fuel remnant communities in denser areas and new settlements as they emerge to consolidate preservation areas.

By seeing waste as an economic resource, urban decline can be seen as a new resource for local economic gain.

What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

Collaboration by property owners, local government and other authorities for appropriate approvals. Creation of a code and/or licensing to ensure health and safety and appropriate procedures are followed to reduce liabilities. Local authorities may be best to co-ordinate a for-profit social enterprise to match their own recycling and housing clearance programs.

What steps could you take to implement this idea today?

Recruitment of workers may begin immediately once a governance model, storage area and supply chain has been established. Trigeneration fuelled by combustible demolition waste would be a longer term possibility involving funding for new infrastructure, and more complex partnerships between relevant stakeholders. This would be a much longer term exercise in lobbying and building support and a long term business case...

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

Governance models and lessons learnt could be exported to similar areas that experiencing economic decline, but this could also be part of a broader city program (for prosperous and declining cities) for ‘zero-waste’ - reducing the volume of demolition spoil to landfill, while also aiming to turn a profit from this 'waste turned resource'.

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