Another aspect to consider in constructing with pollution prevention
(P2) in mind is solid and hazardous wastes. Considering waste during
the planning and design processes can achieve the most efficient
use of materials. Sorting waste produced on-site can further reduce
what goes to the landfill.
- In the U.S., the total annual construction and demolition waste
generated accounts for 136 million tons of landfill materials.
Approximately, 43% (58 million tons) of this total is from residential
construction, demolition and renovation projects. Source:
- It is estimated that 8,000 lbs. of waste is thrown into the
landfill during construction of a typical 2,000 square foot home.
The makeup of this waste is estimated in the following table.
"Typical" Construction Waste Estimated
for a 2,000-Square-Foot Home
Weight (in pounds)
Volume (in cubic yards)*
Solid Sawn Wood
*Volumes are highly variable due to compressibility and captured
air space in waste materials.
**Assuming three sides of exterior clad in vinyl siding.
***Assuming a brick veneer on home's front facade.
Source: NAHB Research Center, Residential
Construction Waste: From Disposal to Management http://www.nahbrc.org/tertiaryR.asp?TrackID=&DocumentID=2301&CategoryID=819
Although construction wastes vary from one site to another other
studies reflect similar trends in characteristics of waste materials
with wood, drywall and cardboard contributing the largest percentages
of material. Materials in the "other" category may include
glass, ceramic, aggregate, rubble, paper and paperboard, plastic,
electrical wire, carpet, rubber, insulation, and miscellaneous items
Regulations for handling, transport and disposal of solid and hazardous
waste vary from state to state and sometimes community to community.
- Contact local environmental regulatory agency for guidance.
- Avoid waste disposal through prevention practices.
- If a potentially hazardous material spills, contact proper authorities
Typically, waste from new construction sites is cleaner than that from
demolition or renovation sites. Demolition and renovation may produce
additional special wastes, e.g. asbestos, lead, fluorescent lamps and
ballast, etc. which must be handled according to local regulatory guidelines.
New construction waste is generally considered non-hazardous although
hazardous components can exist within the debris. (Refer to the Hazardous
Waste link in above table for more information about hazardous and special
wastes). A waste audit is required to characterize waste produced at specific
construction sites and to determine the hazardous component. Material
Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by product manufacturers can provide
some information to help make this determination. Procedures for purchasing,
inventory and use can then be developed appropriately to ensure safety
and to assist with the reduction of waste materials.
There are many reasons to focus on solid and hazardous waste management
as one aspect of an integrated approach to green building. Many
of the benefits of resource-efficient construction are recognized
through proper solid and hazardous waste management.
|1. Cost of Disposal, Materials and Labor
Waste produced at a job site cuts into a project twice - once
during material purchase and again during waste management.
Efficient use of materials by crews and subcontractors reduces
waste and improves material budgets. In addition to tipping
fees, disposal costs consist of on-site handling and transporting
of waste. Fewer trips to the landfill decrease handling and
transportation costs associated with disposal of debris. Effective
site procedures may also reduce handling costs.
= Lost Profits
2. Liability, Health and Safety
Residential construction waste has the potential to adversely impact
health, safety, water and air quality. Solid and hazardous waste
storage and handling can contribute to trips and falls, unintended
exposure to harmful substances, releases, spills and unauthorized
or illegal disposal. Less waste on-site means a cleaner, safer site
and less potential liability resulting from 'accidents'.
3. Market Appeal and Community Relations
Efforts to proactively manage construction waste are worth talking
about. The public will appreciate contractors who: value the environment
by saving natural resources and valuable landfill space; value their
employees safety by keeping clean and safe sites; and value their
communities by putting less stress on already overburdened services
(roads and landfills). Housing prices will reflect the value of
the homes' contents and the workers' skills, not what had to be
cleaned up. Municipalities, clients and neighbors will respond positively.
|Plan for Waste
What can a builder do to minimize the waste produced during construction?
Waste management begins with prevention, ie. eliminating waste streams
before their creation. Reduction of waste will reduce costs associated
with handling, managing and disposing of these materials, it may
even reduce material costs by enhancing efficiency of the materials
purchased. Both solid and hazardous waste can be reduced through
the following steps:
1. Design out waste
- Base design dimensions on standard material sizes
- Determine process modifications that reduce waste and specify
- Favor designs that use materials efficiently e.g. two-foot module,
stacked framing and single top plate (Optimum Value Engineering)
- Incorporate reused and salvaged building materials into the
- Know what you typically throw out and focus on finding alternatives
- Cut and fill on-site; don't haul top soil off site
2. Purchase "Green"
- Choose engineered products that reduce rejects
- Incorporate reclaimed materials into the project
- Make accurate supply estimates and order only what is needed;
do not overstock inventory (especially chemicals which can expire)
- Choose products with minimal or no packaging; work with suppliers
to reduce packaging
- Use materials that do the job with the least toxicity
- Purchase green materials, equipment and appliances throughout
3. Prevent on-site waste
- Establish inventory and housekeeping procedures; train employees to
follow the procedures
- Train employees to use equipment properly
- Properly label containers to avoid mixing incompatible materials
- Ask suppliers to take or buy back any substandard, rejected, or unused
- Request supplies be delivered on sturdy pallets or containers that
can be reused; have supplier come and pick them up after use
Materials that cannot be eliminated through design, procurement
decisions, and take-back programs can be further eliminated from
the waste stream by reuse or recycling. Check with your state and/or
local environmental regulatory agencies regarding specific handling
procedures and requirements regarding hazardous wastes. The following
are steps to follow when managing waste streams:
1. Plan for management
- Conduct an audit of waste produced
- Involve everyone from distributors to subcontractors to recycling
facilities; familiarize yourself with opportunities, and them
with on-site procedures
- Write clear procedures, e.g. separate materials into appropriate
bins or stacks; remove contamination, such as plastic or nails;
day and time for pickup, etc.
- Train employees to follow procedures
2. Reuse / Salvage
- Reuse waste on-site first, e.g. wood scraps for bracing, drywall
scraps as fillers in closets, etc.
- Work with local salvage centers and used material exchanges
for lumber, fixtures, appliances, masonry, roofing, etc.
- Donate larger pieces of scraps or other usable materials to
local housing programs, e.g. Habitat for Humanity
- Recycle waste on-site first, e.g. grind gypsum board as a soil
- Work with local recycling centers to haul cardboard, wood, gypsum
board, plastic, etc.
- Buy recycled products to support the markets for off-site recycling
- Review sorting, stacking, and handling procedures with crew
and on-site procedures with salvage and recycling haulers; provide
them with written copies of procedures
- Spot check to ensure that all subcontractors and haulers understand
and follow the procedures
Approximately 70% of construction waste consists of metals, wood,
drywall, and cardboard. All of these materials can typically be
reused or recycled on- or off-site. Lists of waste handlers and
recyclers in your area can be obtained from your state or local
|If solid and hazardous waste is still produced after reduction,
reuse and recycling activities then a builder must turn to disposal.
Always dispose of hazardous wastes through a reliable hazardous
waste management company such as a Treatment, Storage, and Disposal