Construction waste makes up one-third of the total refuse nationwide in North America. Such a statistic makes it clear it is important to make better use of debris and existing building materials to make substantial changes.
Such waste poses a great danger to the environment. For this reason, construction industries need to find suitable methods to manage construction and demolition materials that generate waste during construction activities.
Responsible management of waste is an essential aspect of sustainable building and construction. Waste management is a key area of concern within the construction industry today. With dumping sites currently overflowing in certain urban areas and most low-income zones, it is time to take salvage/reclamation opportunities, recycling or reusing materials, source reduction and waste disposal more seriously. The following are tips for sustainable waste management in construction:
Some building-related waste can be minimized. For example, construction products can be selected on the basis of its being designed and manufactured to be shipped with minimal packaging. Also consider that selection and use of recyclable materials and products offers potential to minimize waste.
Separate waste efficiently
How waste is separated and stored is essential for effective construction waste costs management. This can be done by:
- Introducing a secure on-site waste storage area that features clearly labelled and colour-coded skips, bulk bags or wheelie bins for different types of waste
- If applicable, deploying a mini crusher and screener for leftover bricks, blocks and hardcore
- Training employees in basic segregation procedures, using incentives and rewards to ensure they follow them
- Bringing on board a team to exclusively monitor and manage materials and waste either on a full- or part-time basis (depending on your budget).
Some materials can be reused. For example, doors and windows in good, resalable condition might substitute for new products, or be donated and or sold for use on another project; a form of beneficial reuse.
Raw construction and demolition debris can be diverted and used as a resource. Some materials that can be diverted include:
- Landscape and land clearing debris
- Asphalt pavements
- Gravel and aggregate products
- Masonry scrap and rubble
- Clean wood
- Insulation materials
Materials and products which cannot efficiently and effectively be eliminated, minimized or reused ultimately are collected, and unless managed, will probably be disposed at the lowest cost. In many areas of the country, disposal fees at solid waste landfills are substantially higher than the cost of separation and recovery, including the disposal cost for residues.
Some waste generated in the process of construction can be eliminated. For example, durable modular metal form systems for use in concrete construction may be selected on the basis of being readily demountable and reusable on other projects, thus eliminating wood waste associated with formwork fabricated of plywood and dimensional lumber. Elimination of waste can be beneficial to reduce impacts on human health and the environment.
Demolition and deconstruction
Building demolition results in heavy pollution and waste generation, so deconstruction needs to be the focus instead.
Deconstruction allows for extensive recovery of usable material at every level, right from systems and assemblies to entire structures and foundations. In addition to preserving resources and minimizing landfill waste, it also boosts the economy by creating new employment opportunities.
Deconstruction can be used at a number of levels to salvage usable materials and significantly cut waste and has the following benefits:
- Maximizes the recovery of materials
- Conserves finite forest resources
- Provides employment opportunities
- Allows communities to create local economic activities around manufacturing or reprocessing salvaged materials
- Diverts demolition debris bound for disposal
Here are some aspects to consider while designing/removing buildings:
- Complete deconstruction is not always possible, but most buildings can be partially deconstructed by combining demolition and deconstruction methods.
- Buildings that are wood-framed are highly deconstructable, especially if they have been constructed with heavy timber or versatile, old growth wood.
- Paving or construction projects using high-quality brick covered with low-quality mortar are easier to deconstruct, clean and reuse in new buildings.
- Structurally sound buildings that are constructed with durable materials are the easiest to deconstruct, with the maximum salvage/recovery potential.
For each project, the construction manager needs to assess the project requirements and site location to determine the best waste recycling method to use. Some questions to help with this are as follows:
- How many waste containers do you have room for?
- What will be their location on-site?
- Will you use a trash chute?
- Is it a high-rise site?
- Is it a high construction and demolition diversion project?
- Will there be enough staff onsite for required supervision?
- Will there be changes in the waste generated during the project?
Engineers and construction companies should promote sustainable and eco-friendly construction. They should carry out regular site inspections to verify that all construction waste management measures are in place and working properly. In addition, haulers should create monthly construction reports on time. Also, waste recycling and hauling should be monitored on a weekly basis. Most importantly, the actual performance should meet or exceed the project goals on a frequent basis.
For more tips and guidelines, kindly stay in touch with us and feel free to book a free consultation session.