Case Study

Urban Wood Reuse

Baltimore: Creating jobs with salvaged wood


credit: Humanim

Humanim is a workforce development and social enterprise nonprofit with over 40 diverse programs and a mission to support and empower individuals who face social or economic challenges.

Baltimore, MD

Humid subtropical climate zone with four distinct seasons


63% African American, 29% white, 2% Asian, 2% two or more races, 1% other

Baltimore City has tens of thousands of vacant and abandoned row homes. Historically, when these buildings were decommissioned, they were demolished. The structure would be pushed into the foundation and graded over, making every lot a miniature dump site.

Deconstruction > Demolition

With many of Baltimore’s communities facing high unemployment, in 2012, Humanim looked at this problem of vacant buildings as an opportunity to support its mission. With some technical assistance from the US Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab and a contract from Baltimore City, it began work on deconstructing rather than demolishing abandoned row homes. From that emerged a Humanim social enterprise, Details Deconstruction.

Deconstruction creates six to eight jobs for every one job created by conventional demolition. By salvaging flooring, framing, and architectural elements

from buildings being decommissioned, every Details Deconstruction project diverts material from the waste stream and creates jobs for people with barriers to employment.

Since 2012, Details has trained and employed over 165 low income residents from Baltimore that faced barriers to employment, with zero percent recidivism for staff members. Over $4,100,000 in revenue has been generated from sales of recovered material over that time period. They have increased salvageable yields to approximately 7,500 bricks, 400 square feet of flooring, and 1,400 board feet of lumber for each deconstructed row house.

Brick + Board

In 2015, Humanim opened Brick + Board, an 18,000 square foot space with storage and processing capacity in addition to retail floor space. By performing some value-added processing and providing retail sales, Humanim can create more jobs and sell some higher value products.

New City Contract

Details’ new contract with the city calls for the deconstruction of 200 homes per year for the next three years, a significant ramp up. They will also look to diversify operations by adding some fresh cut logs from Baltimore City Recreation and Parks’ tree removals to their materials stream.


  • City of Baltimore contract
  • Product sales

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Lessons Learned
  • Humanim has created new markets in Baltimore by investing in people and materials that others overlooked, adding value and creating opportunity.
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