The article will discuss estimated full timelines for repurposing abandoned buildings and provide high-level estimates for the project proposals outside the city center as well. 

In the case that demolition is required to repurpose disvalued land in a central city location, a longer time period will be needed. The table below shows the estimated time for complete demolition, with numbers given according to an average residential building space of 2,000 square feet. 

Project PhaseEstimated Time
1. Permit Prep Work
*Shut off utilities
*Gain approval by environmental and fire departments 
*Complete pest control
*Inspection for environmental hazard
1 week[1],[2] 
2. Obtain demolition permit from the City of Boston12 days[3]
3. Contact demolition service provider. Arrange for salvage of materials by an organization like Habitat for Humanity. 5 days[4]
4. Tear down the building5 days[5]
Total: 3 weeks, 2 days
Table 1. Estimates of time for demolition

Cleanup follows demolition, and the process of responsible disposal of material also consists of notable stages that are outlined below.

Project PhaseEstimated Time
1. Digging out any remaining foundations to reveal the soil 3 weeks[6]
2. Gather, sort, and package debris2 days
3. Transport debris to recycling station or household hazardous waste facility2 days
Total:3 weeks, 4 days
Table 2. Estimates of time for disposal

For properties or land that do not require demolition, the following table will provide the estimate of time to completion. For those that do involve demolition, the total time estimate given below will simply be added to the prior time investment. 

The table provides a project breakdown for a typical green infrastructure solution. The 200 square meter rain garden is sampled here, but a similar timeline applies to bioswales, detention ponds, curbside or building planters, and green walls. 

Project PhaseEstimated Time
1. Choose a design to fit local topography. Calculate area and depth needed.1 day
2. Conducting tests for soil and percolation2 days[7]
3. *Bioremediation if necessary6 weeks
4. Digging and refilling with soil (sand, top soil, compost)5 days[8]
5. Add landscaping features2 days
6. Sow seeds of native plants and await germination2 weeks[9]
Total: 3 weeks, 3 days or *3 months
Table 3. Estimates of time for green infrastructure

A sample timeline for planting 100 trees is included. This timeline can be implemented independent of the work for demolition and disposal because the Terrascope solution proposal also includes planting trees in the smaller spaces already existing within the highly-paved city center.

Project PhaseEstimated Time
1. Prepare the surface for planting. ~150 square feet of area needed in total.
*In city center: crack concrete
*In yard: clear grass
1 week
2. Bioremediation through microorganisms or plants *in the case of contaminated soil7 months[10]
3. Purchase saplings and prepare for delivery to site2 days
4. Recruit and lead team to plant trees12 days[11]
Total: 3 weeks or *8 months
Table 4. Planting trees

The combination of repurposing buildings and planting trees has been described for the general case so that the Terrascope Class of 2024 proposal may be applied to any opportunity a city itself identifies. In general, completion of a project that includes demolition and roughly 5 rain garden-equivalent constructions is expected to take 4 months, but this depends on the size of the lot or property. 

To provide a more concrete idea for an expected timeline, however, the previous estimates will be applied to the 5 abandoned buildings identified at this page. These 5 buildings are of interest because they are close (distance of 1,500 ft) to existing green spaces, meaning they have the potential to enlarge the range of contiguous green spaces in Boston if they are repurposed. The building addresses are 

  • 21 Custer St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 
  • 5 Boynton St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
  • 79 Jamaica St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
  • 40 Cross St, Boston, MA 02113
  • 90 Commercial Wharf, Boston, MA 02110

Completed one after another, these 5 projects can be finished in a total of 20 months. If the process of preparing the properties for inspection and demolition begins in 2026, then, the entire process of implementing the green infrastructure can be completed by 2028.

A larger property in Roxbury that Terrascope Class of 2024 also proposes to demolish for repurposing of the land can count as two such projects. It can be finished within a year, so the timeline is 2025 to 2026 for this project.

After the completion of any green infrastructure project, the next time-conscious questions to demand of a project intended to protect biodiversity are: how often will success metrics be gauged, and how long will it take to judge success?

A bumblebee perched on a clover flower
Figure 1. Volunteers within a transect counted the bees that visited a single flower in 15 minutes for a rough count of the bee population of the city.[16]

Wildlife population censuses will be essential to measuring species richness and evenness for assessing the group’s proposed solutions. This is because Terrascope Class of 2024 uses metrics that hinge on the increase in local species richness and evenness as a result of the implemented solutions. However, the different forms that the censuses take influence the different uses this group will have for them. The most accurate method for counting a population is through direct count, a more resource-intensive process usually aided by photography and manual labor to scope out every last organism.[12] Another popular method with wildlife away from city centers is mark and recapture.[13] Terrascope Class of 2024 has decided not to rely on these methods. They will not be practical for city wildlife measurements since the endeavors would have a high time and monetary investment. 

Terrascope Class of 2024 will instead opt for a leaner data-gathering method so more frequent counts can be conducted according to evolving needs, accepting the tradeoff of greater accuracy in the early stages of solution implementation. 

The incomplete count relies on sampling and extrapolating.[14] Even this is difficult in cities since many man made barriers easily conceal population members from aerial photographs or field workers in a smaller region of the city. Cities also consist of different concentrations of the plant and animal species of interest. To complete one incomplete count, the distance traversed by the transect—a partitioned parcel of land—must be recorded, as well as the location within the city of this land sample, the time taken to traverse it, and all the species counted at once in this area.[15]

While only as accurate as the number of transects surveyed, the iterative sampling of the incomplete count is a faster way of conducting a census of crucial components of the urban ecosystem like birds and fish, and this can happen up to once a year with low-tech resources needed. This less accurate count is best used for producing an index in which the year-to-year population of different species can be compared against each other but the absolute quantity of population size may be more difficult to discern. 

A summary of counting methods: 

Counting MethodInvestment of Time and Money RequiredAccuracyFrequency of Data Collection
Direct CountHighHighAnnual
Mark and RecaptureHighHighAnnual
Incomplete CountLowModerateMonthly/by season to produce an annual value
Table 5. Benefits and drawbacks to different counting methods

When not carried out by the resources of local governments, these types of censuses have seen success when carried out by “citizen scientists” who volunteer for a research institution or public online project. A study on San Francisco bee populations, for example, recruited some 100,000 volunteers who spent minimal time—30 minutes per month—collecting census samples near their homes.[17] This type of incomplete counting that relies on individuals reporting to a central website or point of contact has worked for plant species, as well. For nearly 3 decades now, the U.S. Forest Service has relied on a few thousand—most recently 2,000—volunteers to count trees of different species in New York City.[18] It may take at least a decade for certain threatened species to recover, so the ideal timeline for gauging success of an adaptive landscaping project would be 10 years, built on the analysis of the incomplete count discussed above.[19]


[1] Stomp Pest Control. (n.d.). Pest Control FAQs. Retrieved November 18, 2020 from

[2] Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. (n.d.). MassDEP Permitting & Reporting. Retrieved November 18, 2020 from

[3] Inspectional Services Department. (n.d.). Demolition Checklist. Retrieved November 18, 2020 from

[4] Habitat for Humanity. (n.d.). 8 things to donate when renovating. Retrieved November 18, 2020 from

[5] Hometown Demolition. (n.d.). The homeowner’s guide to demolishing a house. Retrieved November 18, 2020 from,of%20a%20truck%20or%20dumpster

[6] Homes by Michael Hall. (n.d.). Home building process phase 4 – excavation & foundation. Retrieved November 18, 2020 from

[7] Missouri Botanical Garden. (n.d.). Rainscaping guide: Is a rain garden right for your site? Retrieved November 18, 2020 from

[8] Rodomsky-Bish, R. (2017, November 21). How to create an effective rain garden. Habitat Network.

[9] DeJohn, S. Ready, set, grow! Answers to frequently asked questions about starting seeds indoors. (n.d.). Gardeners Supply Company.,absorb%20enough%20moisture%20to%20sprout

[10] Azubuike, C. C., Chikere, C. B., & Okpokwasili, G. C. (2016). Bioremediation Techniques-Classification Based on Site of Application: Principles, Advantages, Limitations and Prospects. World Journal of Microbiology & Biotechnology. 

[11] Kawata, A. (2020, October 20). Baltimore Tree Trust celebrates 10,000th tree planting in city as part of effort to expand tree canopy. CBS Baltimore.

[12] Pollock, K. H. (1983). Estimating Wildlife Populations. NC State University.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] WWF. (2004). Counting Wildlife Manual. 

[16] Christels. (n.d.). [Bumblebee on a flower] [Photograph].

[17] ScienceDaily. (2012). Low Number of Bees in Found Urban Areas, National Bee Count in US Ready to Count Again. 

[18] Merriman, D. (2017). Volunteers count every street tree in New York City. US Forest Service.

[19] Ashe, D. (2016). ESA Delisting. U.S. Department of the Interior.