The City of Vancouver could soon ban the demolition of homes built before 1940, and require anyone planning to knock one down to deconstruct it piece by piece and sort the materials for recycling.

The proposal follows increasing concerns about the demolition of heritage and character homes in Vancouver. On average three homes are demolished in Vancouver everyday, of which 40 per cent are pre-1940s homes that give many neighbourhoods their character.

The proposed regulation would require recycling or reuse of 75 per cent of the waste from a pre-1940s home and 90 per cent of the waste from one which has been identified as a character home.

Legg house, vancouver

The demolition of the 115-year-old Legg Residence in Vancouver highlights the alarming rate at which older homes are being knocked down in Vancouver, according to heritage advocates. (CBC)

Currently only about 40 per cent of waste from demolished homes is recycled or reused, compared with about 85 per cent from the demolition of commercial buildings.

Drywall and other hazardous materials are already removed prior to demolition, but city engineers say large amounts of untreated wood in the older homes could be diverted from landfills under the new proposals.

Coun. Heather Deal says it's all part of the Heritage Action Plan and the broader Greenest City 2020 ambitions to reduce the amount of waste heading to the landfill.

"From the Greenest City side it makes no sense to put housing materials into the landfill," says Deal.

Costs could rise 40%

Corinne Fulton with 3R Demolition says she's happy to help owners deconstruct old houses by hand, but it will cost a whole lot more, especially if they contain lead or asbestos.

"I think it's great that we get things out of the waste stream, but it costs more in labour and time," says Fulton.

Knocking down a small home with a backhoe costs as little as $12,000, and the deconstruction ban could increase the cost by at least 40 per cent, she says.

Coun. Deal says part of the aim is to make people think twice about knocking down an older home simply to replace it.

"It's the sort of thing people should budget for if they choose to disregard the value inherent in that building," says Deal.             

City council will debate the deconstruction motion next Tuesday. If passed, the regulations could be in effect some time in 2015.

With files from Luke Brocki