Salvaging the Historical Nature of Nantucket: Reducing Construction and Demolition Waste


Sponsor: Nantucket Department of Public Works
Sponsor Liaisons: Graeme Durovich, DPW
Holly Backus, Preservation Planner
Student Team: Abigail Calistra, Jakob Misbach, Heather Oxford, Anthony Vuolo
Abstract: Each year on Nantucket, numerous houses are demolished, or substantially remodeled and valuable building materials are sent to landfills off island. The goal of this project was to evaluate construction and demolition (C&D) waste handling practices on Nantucket to determine ways to limit demolition and reduce C&D waste, while preserving the historical and architectural integrity of the island. We recommend that the Town modify its demolition approvals process and reach out to architects, realtors, and builders to discourage demolition, enable more structure relocations, and encourage deconstruction and reuse of valuable salvage materials. There is a rudimentary, informal market in salvage that needs to be expanded and promoted.

Report: Salvaging the Historical Nature of Nantucket – Reducing Construction and Demolition Waste

Presentation: Salvaging the Historical Nature of Nantucket – Reducing Construction and Demolition Waste

Executive Summary

     Like many other communities, Nantucket wants to explore policies that promote deconstruction and reuse to reduce the island’s C&D waste. The entire island is a historic district, however, and many structures hold significant historical and architectural value. Thus, the solutions will need to accommodate Nantucket’s historic preservation requirements and spatial limitations. The Nantucket Historic District Commission (HDC), the Nantucket Historical Commission (NHC), and the Nantucket Preservation Trust (NPT) would like to limit the number of houses being demolished and instead encourage deconstruction and salvage of building materials to maintain the historical integrity of the island. The Nantucket Department of Public Works (DPW) is municipal responsible for waste management on Nantucket and is interested in limiting demolition and promoting deconstruction to reduce the amount of C&D waste that needs to be processed and shipped off island. There are no current requirements on Nantucket for deconstructing houses to salvage building materials, nor is there an established market on the island for buying or selling these building materials.

     The goal of this project was to evaluate current C&D waste handling practices on Nantucket to determine ways to improve these practices and limit demolition to reduce C&D waste, while continuing to maintain the historical and architectural integrity of the island. We identified three objectives to address our project goal:

     (1) Evaluate current and best practices to limit demolition and encourage house deconstruction and reuse in Massachusetts towns and elsewhere.

     (2) Identify the current practices and procedures Nantucket uses to determine which houses and buildings (historic and non-historic) are moved, deconstructed, or demolished.

     (3) Evaluate stakeholder perspectives on ways to limit house demolition and encourage deconstruction and reuse on Nantucket.

     To achieve this goal, our group conducted interviews with town officials and representatives from organizations involved with building, deconstruction, and demolition policies and practices on Nantucket. We also conducted site visits to Nantucket’s waste management site and relevant construction sites.



     During our interviews in conjunction with background research and conversations with our sponsors, we have the following fundamental findings:

     (1) Architects, realtors, and builders play a key role in driving what homeowners and developers do with their properties.

     (2) There are currently few disincentives to demolition and remodeling and incentives promoting more sustainable practices.

     (3) A rudimentary market in salvaged building materials exists but is informal and underdeveloped.



     There is no single or simple way to reduce the C&D waste that enters the Nantucket landfill. Currently, there are many homes and building materials lost every year. Additionally, there are limited ways for organizations on Nantucket to control what a homeowner does with
materials located in the interiors of their homes. Potential solutions to these problems include increased education, deterrents for demolition, incentives for more sustainable practices, and the creation of a market for materials and homes. We make the following 10 recommendations which will help Nantucket to reduce its C&D waste.

     1. The HDC should work with organizations including the NAREB and the NBA to create educational and outreach materials for realtors, architects, and builders to help encourage the more sustainable deconstruction and demolition practices.

     2. The HDC and NHC should work with the Massachusetts Historical Commission and others on the island to increase public awareness of the historic tax credits and to guide homeowners through the process of obtaining historic tax credits.

     3. The HDC should require homeowners to submit a deposit upon receipt of a CoA or building permit that will be returned to the homeowner if the project is completed to the standard required for historic preservation and C&D waste reduction.

     4. The HDC should create a priority system for CoA review which allows for those using more sustainable practices, such as deconstruction or historic renovation, a quicker approval process.

     5. The Town via Town Meeting amendment, in consultation with the HDC, should amend the demolition delay bylaw to increase the time a homeowner is required to advertise, the method by which an advertisement is implemented, and allow for a homeowner to move a home before it can be approved for a demolition.

     6. The DPW should facilitate the creation of a physical marketplace for salvaged building materials.

     7. Additionally, the DPW should facilitate the creation of an online marketplace for salvaged building materials.

     8. The Town Administration with assistance from the HDC should create an online resource where houses that are going to be demolished can/need to be listed so the public can view what homes are on the market to be moved.

     9. The pertinent Town entities (including PLUS and HDC) should modify ground cover policies to allow for temporary staging of homes.

     10. The DPW should work with other organizations in the town to identify and allocate land that allows for temporary staging of homes while their new site is being prepared.


Future Research:

     This project has shown that there is still a substantial amount of work to be to reduce C&D waste. We identify the following six research areas for future research:

     1. Create educational programs and materials for builders, realtors, and architects to promote relocation, deconstruction, and salvage.

     2. Develop a guide to teach homeowners about the history of Nantucket’s homes and the importance of preserving the island’s historical integrity.

     3. Analyze the island’s transportation routes for structure relocations.

     4. Create virtual marketplaces for homes to be relocated and salvaged materials and evaluate their effectiveness.

     5. Evaluate the effectiveness of Nantucket’s demolition delay law.

     6. Examine the role of Nantucket’s waste contractors in the reduction of C&D waste.