There are hundreds of thousands of structures that are demolished every year creating over 100 million tons of debris. The new construction process with waste and unused resources contributes a substantially lower but significant portion of landfill waste. Landfills are a growing problem; containment of the material is an issue from both what flows into the ground and what type of emissions rise into the atmosphere. Landfills are one of the biggest human caused sources of methane emissions. There are also several studies on the effects of what seeps into the ground from large landfill projects. Construction debris is only part of the problem and we realize that we all need to do our part. There are many reasons as a construction company to develop a solid reuse and salvage program. We find that there are many valuable assets when addressing salvaged materials. Heavy timbers and beams are in high demand for builders right now. Older specialty materials such as multi-paned windows, architectural molding, unique doors or plumbing fixtures will always find a new home with the right type of marketing exposure. In many cases excess new but unused building materials exist for construction companies; the situation is created by a change in building specification or a variance on order to need. The material will occupy shops and yards (intended for future use) but construction companies are often taken over by the product and with needing the space they are forced to throw the material out. Beyond a conscientious need to not waste reusable material there is one of profit as well. Construction companies need to understand that the effort needed in listing and making aware of salvage and unused building material will pay for itself. You will find that resources put into these efforts will be rewarded by both profit and a better company recognition for being known as “Environmentally Responsible”.
Avenues to address the concern
1. Material salvage through deconstruction
A thorough review on any demolition process should be made to explore all potential reuse on material in the existing structure. In many cases if pursued properly deconstruction can cost less than demolition because of the value of the salvaged materials and the avoided disposal costs.
2. Work with suppliers on buy back of unused building materials
Your relationship with your building material supply house is critical; you are both stakeholders in our environment. Any newly purchased building materials that were not required on the final construction should have an avenue to return to the original supplier. This will allow the supplier to remarket to other builders and to allow the construction company to save on project costs. Both of you will be benefit from this “Environmentally Responsible “approach.
3. Work with Re-use Organizations
There are many re-use material stores in the larger metropolitan areas. Some of them will pay for the materials; many of them have you donate it. Whichever is the case these services will reduce waste to the landfill. Many of the outfits will come to your jobsite and collect materials. Which will save you both labor and disposal fees.
4. Donate to Habitat for Humanity
Habitats Restores resale outlets accept construction goods which are resold to the general public at a fraction of the original cost. Habitat can provide donation documentation and is a 4 star charity on the Charity Navigator website.
5. Find an online listing service to promote your unused and reclaimed materials.
There are several paid services that allow you to list your used building materials. Many of them will charge a small listing fee. ContractorAssets.com is one that offers free listings for construction salvage and unused building materials. This allows the contractor to list the materials at no cost reducing their resources required to recycle the building materials.
Now more than ever, we all have to make concerted efforts towards the reduction of waste. Many people look at the natural ecosystem and notice that nature’s waste is assimilated back into the environment, while humans have to try to contain it into landfills. The construction industry as a stakeholder of this earth must do its share. Operation Manager’s with construction companies that put real efforts towards a solid reuse program will find it both profitable and rewarding.