Waste Prevention Strategies
Salvaged and Used Materials
Consider utilizing used or salvaged materials. Most used building materials can be installed provided they do not act as structural components or otherwise compromise safety. Materials purchased at salvaged yards cost 10-50 percent of the cost of new materials. Select materials with a high potential for reuse and recycling. Choose non-toxic materials with recycled content. "Green" materials have a lower embodied energy content, are more environmentally friendly in the production process, and are easier to dispose of in sustainable ways.
Depending on the quantities required, it is possible to obtain new lumber, plywood, sheetrock, tiles, etc. that were excess materials from someone else’s project. This is useful if building codes require that only new lumber be utilized for structural members. If lumber is not required to be new, there are often significant quantities of used lumber available, some of which may be of a quality no longer available for sale new such as “old growth” fir.
Many items, including doors, windows, trim, flooring, shutters, counter tops and more, are available used, especially for small jobs. Keep in mind energy efficiency when considering used windows and exterior doors; purchasing these new may result in significant energy savings that are of greater value then the ability to reuse salvaged items.
Architectural salvage can be a source of period trims, fixtures, mantles, interior doors and knobs, hardwood flooring and other antique items salvaged from buildings undergoing deconstruction.
Donating excess materials after the completion of a job eliminates waste and allows for others to utilize these materials. There are a number of businesses in Vermont that take excess materials and provide them for sale. Some utilize the materials in construction and renovation projects for low-income households. Larger quantities can be sold on sites such as Craigslist or locally through ads. See the C&D Resources page for more options.
Depending on the area of the state your business or jobsite is located in, there are additional services available, such as the recycling of asphalt and sheetrock. Check with the local solid waste management entity to determine which services are available to you. Architectural salvage companies can also be located online or in the phone book.
Planning Demolition for Reuse of Materials
The term “demolition” brings to mind the wrecking of a structure or part of one, often utilizing a “wrecking ball” or other heavy machinery. While fast, this sort of demolition generally damages the building materials such that beneficial reuse is often not possible. Utilizing deconstruction methods for all or part of the project allows for the recovery and recycling or reuse of many of the building’s component parts.
When deconstruction occurs, many useful materials, such as wood framing members, trim, windows and doors, appliances and architectural elements, are salvaged for reuse. Items such as asphalt, concrete, gypsum and others can be salvaged for recycling. To facilitate salvage and recycling of materials, source separation should occur at the building site. The use of clearly labeled bins, as well as adequate instruction of the work crews, is recommended in order to maximize beneficial reuse and minimize contamination. Integrate these strategies into the Waste Reduction Plan.
By utilizing deconstruction and maximizing the amount of materials that will be recycled or reused, you will decrease the “carbon footprint” of the building project. Conserving as much of the “embodied energy” as possible in the building materials and components removed reduces the energy needed for the manufacture of new building materials. Many building project specs now require that deconstruction be practiced. Knowledgeable and “green” clients will want to know that they are minimizing their environmental impact by optimizing opportunities for reuse and recycling.
Design Using Standard Dimensions
By using standard dimensions in the design and construction of your project, you will minimize the waste of materials and the quantities of unusable pieces. Sticking to designs for walls, floors and roofs that utilize the 2-foot increments that standard dimensional lumber comes in will minimize waste. Utilizing the dimensions of standard sized panels for gypsum, OSB, plywood and other materials will serve to reduce leftover materials not easily usable for other projects. As well as saving on handling costs for recycling scraps, there should be project savings as well, as more of the project costs will be used in the building’s structure as opposed to landing in the recycle bin!
You can further reduce framing waste by utilizing techniques such as increasing the spacing of joists and studs, and in-line framing.
And it goes without saying, don’t forget to “measure twice, cut once”!
Use Material Calculators
One of the surest ways to save money and minimize waste is to order the correct amount of materials to complete the project. An easy tool to assist in this is to utilize a “materials calculator”. These online tools will quickly calculate everything from sheetrock and drywall screws to flooring, tiles, carpeting, paint, framing lumber, roofing and other building materials. Simply input your project dimensions into it and you will know how much materials your project will require. There are a number of materials calculators available, from ones on websites connected to major home improvement stores to apps for your phone. While they differ in which materials they will help you calculate, they all essentially provide the same service; helping you figure out just how much materials you actually need to purchase for a given project. Materials as varied as drywall, rafter runs, paint, wallpaper, tile, concrete and even landscaping products can be calculated using these programs. Some quantities obviously depend on thickness of coverage (paint) and other variables.