By most accounts the construction waste stream is very, very big. And, it’s not just all the waste from new construction, but also what’s coming from remodeling and repurposing buildings.
Every time a sledge hammer bashes through cabinets, or a waiting dumpster receives a window that could serve a new purpose elsewhere, it shows just how wasteful society has become. Waste from construction is filling up landfills faster than municipalities can dig them, and, it is stealing huge amounts of time, labor and energy in the process.
There are however, many ways to reduce all the waste, and people throughout the industry are adopting them with some very successful results. For example, there are now many opportunities to reuse or repurpose fixtures. There is also a strong movement afoot to recycle. And, many owners and construction pros are finding ways to reduce the material requirements of buildings.
The secret to all of this is, planning. Forethought and lead time create many opportunities that you’ll never get from rushing.
Construction Waste Infographic
The people over at ModSpace might be on to something as their infographic suggests — building with modular components can take a bite out of waste. After you get the basics from the infographic you can get even more information on this topic by using the links at the bottom.
This infographic demonstartes waste stream statstics in USA, one of the highest producers of construction waste.
But the quantity of waste from construction is only one aspect. There is also the waste associated with discarding used things that still have a useful life. Unbroken windows, doors, countertops, cabinets – are all things that can be reused. They might even be refinished and then reused. People will change out their appliances, usually long before they stop working. Where do all these used appliances go? Many are in landfills.
By most accounts time is the biggest obstacle to green demolition, which in its simplest definition is the practice, or maybe it’s more of an art, of finding new uses for construction waste. One estimatesays you should plan that deconstruction will take two to three times longer than normal demolition.
That time is being found though. Over at GreenDemolitions.org people are taking in cabinets, bath fixtures, copper roofs, and even entire estates and then selling them throughout the country. This is just one of many small local efforts that are going to be showing the way as this issue continues to heat up.
The other factor that plagues this concept is the difficulty in finding new owners for things that are not high quality, or in high style. If you can’t sell the spoils, or get a tax break for donating them, then it’s difficult to recoup the costs of carefully salvaging them. But let’s say you decide to make the time to do a green demo. It’s probably likely that you can really cut down the time it takes by simply doing more thorough planning in how the demo is carried out. Here are some ideas.
Decide not to salvage any material or item unless you have a prearranged buyer, or someone to donate it to. Get their buy-in in writing to include a maximum time the materials may stay on site, and have them sign a release of liability holding you harmless for any catastrophes relating to the items once they take possession.
Involve the necessary utility companies, zoning and code officials and trades to make sure utility, noise, dust and other problem areas are planned for.
Plan for safety.
Have adequate dumpsters available, preferably of a locking type.
Put the items in a sequence of removal that is the reverse of installation.
Plan on allowing some temporary storage space.
If you, and your crews, are not going to be the ones removing the material, set up a schedule that all stakeholders must agree to, and plan on having one person on site to coordinate the efforts.
If you are going to do the removals set up spaces for each recipient where the materials they have agreed to take will be staged for pickup.
Have materials and fasteners on hand to use for closing up openings in the building’s envelope that may be left after items are removed.