Waste Solutions Play Key Role In Green Building


Dumped construction debris. Image credit:BLM

Earlier this month, construction and building professionals from around the globe met in Phoenix, for the annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. Green building has grown dramatically in recent years and according to the latest SmartMarket Report from McGraw-Hill Construction, Sustainable Construction Waste Management: Creating Value in the Built Environment, by 2013, the green building market will be up to 25% of all new construction starts and along with an increase of 20-30% in retrofit and renovation activity, which will equate to a $140 billion market.The report also revealed that construction waste management and the reuse of existing structures ranked in the top three important aspects of a green building, just behind energy efficiency. The study, which was produced with support from Waste Management, reveals that 61 percent of contractor's rate waste management plans as the second-most important aspect of green building.

The demand for greater waste diversion practices can be attributed to customer demands for using sustainable waste handling practices, increasing regulatory pressures from state and local governments to ban construction and demolition waste from landfills and improved diversion and recycling rates as well as green building certification through the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program as well as customers own sustainability goals.

Construction waste supply still exceeds demand.
During 2008, the U.S. generated 143.5 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris, and according to the Waste Business Journal, only 28 percent of this waste was reused, recycled or sent to waste-to-energy facilities. Contractors have realized the substantial business impact of improving the management of construction waste and the study illustrates that a growing number of contractors are adopting environmentally conscious practices to divert and recycle more materials and reduce disposal to landfills. In fact, despite the recession, waste diversion activity among construction firms is increasing, with 20 percent diverting half of their construction waste on 60 percent or more of their projects throughout the year.

Beyond the clear incentives of increasing efficiency in buildings and protecting the health of surrounding communities, contractors have found additional benefit in becoming LEED-certified. Across the country, local mandates for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification on all new building projects have increased, helping also to grow the overall green building market. LEED is an internationally recognized third-party certification system that assures these buildings are constructed as intended, using strategies to improve energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources.

With green building becoming an expectation across the country, there are also challenges contractors face in implementing sustainable waste strategies. One is the availability of suppliers and vendors that can help them achieve their green building goals as well as recycling markets are more available in some regions versus others as well as more available for some materials over others. Waste Management's Construction Solutions has been offering a variety of services that not only help contractors meet their green building goals through increased materials diversion and recycling, but can also help them earn points toward LEED certification. Some of these services include waste audits for businesses through programs like Green Squad and Upstream, materials management and recycling through WM Recycle America, WM LampTracker® and Bagster, as well as self-powered trash receptacles, WM Solar Compactor. All of these environmentally conscious solutions help reduce the impact of construction waste on the environment and are available throughout the green building process to further sustainable solutions.

As the green building trend continues to grow , it is important to realize the needs of contractors working to create sustainable solutions, including their desire for construction waste management and reuse processes. Through studies like the SmartMarket Report, leaders in the green building and waste management industries can determine the services needed to improve sustainable design and construction, and help create more green buildings across the country.

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