Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Reconstruction by trial and error

When Christchurch demolition companies salvaged perhaps too many bits of shops that would rightly belong to the property owner (or the insurer), outside of any arrangement in which demolition charges were defrayed by such salvaging, the demolition companies were rightly condemned for looting.

And now everything is going straight to landfill by edict of Civil Defence, including gorgeous old native timber that would be of rather high value if salvaged.
Most of the timber arriving at the landfill had already been broken into small pieces, and careful salvaging would draw out the inner-city recovery, he said.

"There is so much to come down that if you take the time to salvage, it will end up taking two to three years."

One demolition source said it would take no extra time to salvage wood, reducing demolition costs for Civil Defence and easing the landfill burden.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of metres of native timber being wasted because of some bureaucratic crap," he said.
I have no clue whether taking the time to salvage wood or other materials from the condemned buildings would be efficient. But neither does Civil Defence. It's probably unknowable outside of a market system.

In some unattainable first best world, we'd have a measure of the daily cost that a condemned building's existence imposes on its neighbours and of the costs imposed on commuters by road closures during demolition. Charging owners of condemned buildings that amount until the demolition were complete would be highly inequitable. Instead, best policy would likely have the demolition company quote how long it would take to demolish the building if everything went to the landfill, then let building owners and insurers decide how long to take to run the demolition with daily charges accruing for time beyond the minimum demolition period. If taking an extra week to demolish a building would impose $50,000 in costs on neighbours but would allow the salvaging of materials worth $500,000, the delay would be worthwhile. If the salvaged materials were only worth $5,000, not so much. But at least we'd know which delays were worthwhile.

But we have no clue what the relevant costs are so imposing charges that would push to the efficient result is impossible. And delays while implementing such a system would themselves be costly. A heads-up from the demolition contractor to CD that a pile of valuable native timbers could be saved if demolition took a day or two longer, with proceeds from salvage net of salvage costs going to the building's insurer, would likely be better than just dumping everything. But it could also be the case that CD hasn't the resources to make those calls either.

Earthquakes do push things away from first and second best solutions.

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