A ToolBase TechNote
Construction waste can and should be managed in the same way as other home building operations. Efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle construction waste may save money, reduce liability, keep job sites cleaner and safer, and conserve valuable landfill space.
While job-site disposal may not be the biggest item on your budget spreadsheet, it probably is a growing number and it is eating directly into your profit. Whether you are a builder or a remodeler, moving from straight disposal to waste management can make your business more resource-efficient. Here are three simple actions to consider:
Know what you throw - From the standpoint of efficiency and liability, taking a look at what and how much material ends up in your job-site dumpster can tell you a lot about your crews and your trade contractors. Routinely check out your job-site waste stream as one way of evaluating efficient use of materials.
Follow the three R's - While most people think of recycling first, the order of the three Rs is reduce, reuse, recycle. With waste reduction, particularly framing waste, you save twiceonce with a reduced take-off list and again when you pay for less disposal. Three of the largest waste components on most job sitescardboard, wood, and drywall make up 75% of job-site wasteare fully recyclable. While recycling outlets for drywall are rare and less than common for wood, there is a way to on-site grind these materials for use as erosion control and soil amendment at the job site (see Resources). Also, if a non-profit reuses surplus or scrapped materials from a builder, the builder can claim the full value of the materials as a tax-deductible donation.
Investigate local conditions and options - Builders represent just one group that needs to be involved in construction waste reduction. Waste haulers, recyclers, local building product manufacturers, landfill operators/owners, and local solid waste officials all bring their own issues and expertise to the table and you will need to engage all of them to determine what might work in your community and on your job sites. Rather than do this on your own, engage your local home builder association to take a look at local construction waste management as a community opportunity to cost-effectively conserve natural resources and local landfill capacity.
NAHB Research Center Resources
A wide variety of publications available on construction waste management, ranging from guides to pamphlets, all available on our publications list. For more information call 800-638-8556 or visit our online bookstore.
- On-Site Grinding of Residential Construction Debris: The Indiana Grinder Pilot
A detailed report, including the technological, environmental, and economic feasibility of grinding wood, cardboard, and drywall on the job site for use as erosion control material and soil amendment. Detailed appendices on the cost for both custom and production builders.
- The Deconstruction Series
Includes a set of 4 informational pamphlets:
Deconstruction: Building Disassembly and Material Salvage
Some buildings provide a big salvage opportunity for brick, framing lumber, doors, windows, hardware, landscaping, you name it. This pamphlet summarizes how this approach to building removal works and uses several case studies to show the benefits.
Carpet & Padding: Reuse & Recycling Opportunities
Carpet represents a huge single-item waste stream (2 million tons annually) with good recycling opportunities. This pamphlet covers everything from collection to new recycled-content products.
From Roof to Roads: Recycling Asphalt Roofing Shingles Into Paving Materials
Another large single-item waste stream (over 7 million tons annually) with good recycling opportunities. This pamphlet covers everything from dealing with asbestos content to DOT road specs for recycled-content paving.
How to Clean-Up in the Construction Waste Management Business: A Small Business Opportunity in Disposal & Recycling Services
The most convenient disposal and recycling service is one in which there are no or few containers, pick up timed to separate out recyclables (all wood after framing) and the builder chooses the level of service (waste pick-up, job-site pick-up, broom clean interior). This pamphlet uses three such businesses to show how this system works for builders and recyclers.
- Deconstruction: Building Disassembly and Material Salvage - The Riverdale Case Study
Complete documentation (materials, labor costs, task breakdown) of the manual disassembly of a conventional residential building. The Riverdale project is the vehicle for discussion of issues relating to deconstruction: added job time, workmen's compensation, OSHA lead and asbestos requirements, lumber grade stamps, etc.
- A Guide to Deconstruction
Learn how deconstruction can help play a role in local economic development efforts. Read about ways to support and complement other community objectives, and create job training and job opportunities for unskilled and unemployed workers. Learn how deconstruction benefits the environment by diverting valuable resources from crowded landfills into profitable uses. This book shows the components of deconstruction, its benefits, case examples, and how to make it part of a community revitalization strategy.
- Investigation of Deconstruction Feasibility in the District of Columbia
A detailed report on the economic and physical potential for deconstruction in the District of Columbia. Complete with detailed assessments of representative properties that are viable deconstruction candidates, a deconstruction potential rating scale, and drive-by assessment profiles. Designed for demolition contractors, deconstruction companies, non-profit community organizations, and government officials interested in the potential of deconstruction to provide social, economic, and environmental benefits.
- A Report on the Feasibility of Deconstruction: An Investigation of Deconstruction Activity in Four Cities
This report is based on a study of four urban communities and lessons from other local deconstruction initiatives. It describes the conditions under which deconstruction is likely to work, and the barriers-economic, organizational, and public policy-that must be overcome for it to be a viable part of a community revitalization strategy. This report also describes the different types of materials and deconstruction activities found in each city. While this report is especially timely for public housing authorities implementing modernization and HOPE VI strategies, it is also intended for community leaders who may want to consider deconstruction as a way to enhance and improve their community revitalization efforts.
The three resources listed below represent good, broad sources of information on all aspects of construction and demolition waste management: