The construction industry is a crucial component of any economy. However, this industry constantly faces massive construction and demolition (C&D) waste generation during their construction activities.
The C&D waste includes materials like concrete, bricks, wood, steel, plastic, paper, and more. These wasteful materials can lead to significant economic and environmental issues that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
That’s why the concept of zero waste in construction has emerged as an effective solution to eliminate waste, preserve the environment, promote sustainability, and save money.
This article will discuss the strategies, benefits, and tips on how to adopt the zero-waste concept in the construction industry and solve the ever-growing problem with C&D waste.
To achieve sustainable management of C&D (construction and demolition) materials and eventually – zero-waste, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from the USA outlined a 4-step strategy.
The first step for construction companies is to try using fewer resources from the very beginning in the design process. By doing so, they will ensure that the materials don’t end up in waste.
Construction companies should evaluate all resources that go into a project so the waste is minimal or zero.
Some examples of reducing resources include:
– Preserving existing buildings (instead of building new ones)
– Optimizing the size of new structures
– Reducing interior finishes
– Implementing alternative framing techniques
– Using construction methods that allow resources to be re-used later in new buildings
In addition to these methods, this step also includes purchasing agreements that prevent excess materials and resources from arriving at the construction site.
When demolishing existing buildings, a lot of debris is generated, which is not a very resource-efficient practice. However, there is a way for the C&D materials to be further reused while protecting natural resources and saving money.
The construction companies can salvage and reuse most of the C&D materials and construction components by using deconstruction.
This process doesn’t necessarily dictate that every last component needs to be reused, but it can significantly salvage usable resources and contribute to the “zero waste” goal.
The deconstruction process has many benefits, such as:
– Maximizing the recovery of resources
– Conserving finite resources (like trees)
– Providing employment opportunities
– Preserving materials through reuse
The materials that can be reused include:
– Doors, appliances, hardware, and other easy-to-remove items.
– Bricks or concrete
– Crushed gypsum
– Excess insulation
– Packaging materials
The materials or the waste that can’t be reused should be moved to the recycling facilities.
Construction companies can recycle most of their building components (where markets exist).
Some of the building components that can be recycled include:
Concrete and asphalt can be easily recycled into new asphalt or other concrete products.
Metals such as steel, brass, or copper can be valuable commodities after being recycled.
Wood often is recycled into furniture, compost, mulch, etc.
It’s important to note that sometimes your recycling materials can be poorly managed. That’s why you should ask your recycler about their compliance with regulations, licensing, or registration to ensure proper management for your materials.
When buying used and recycled resources, the construction companies can save money and support the local economy.
Here are some essential benefits of buying used C&D materials:
– You will save money
– You can boost your local economy
– You will lower the construction and renovation costs
– You will preserve the architectural character (in the case of preserved buildings)
Reducing the amount of wasteful C&D materials and achieving zero waste in construction can:
– Reduce building project expenses.
– Provide tax benefits through a donation of recovered materials.
– Create job opportunities in the recycling industries (as case studies show, 681k new jobs are opened thanks to the recycling and reuse activities).
– Reduce the need to use disposal facilities (often associated with environmental concerns).
– Offset the environmental impact when using finite resources for creating new construction materials.
– Preserve landfill space.
1. Set a goal to strive for a zero-waste in construction (or at least significant reduction).
2. Reduce the number of resources and materials early in the design process.
3. Have in mind the deconstruction of materials at the end of their life.
4. Scan for materials that can be reused, such as doors, bricks, gypsum, paint, etc.
5. Send the C&D materials that can’t be reused for recycling.
6. Buy used resources whenever possible to reduce costs and help the local economy.
7. Consider using materials that can be recycled.
8. Design for off-site construction which can reduce errors and create less waste.
9. Specify takeback with the vendors for surplus materials to minimize overordering.
10. Use BIM technology for 3D coordination and modeling of the building systems that can help in minimizing construction errors that can happen on-site.
Achieving zero waste for construction and demolition (C&D) materials can be a daunting but possible goal.
You can start by following the 4-step strategy that our professionals at Breon successfully implement for many years to bring the waste to the minimum.
It can also significantly help if you consider the benefits of participating in the circular economy when it comes to C&D, reading successful case studies, and utilizing the power of BIM for all of your construction projects.
Contact us today if you want any help with your construction project and minimizing/eliminating the C&D waste.