VOL. 110 | NO. 252 | Tuesday, December 31, 1996
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Contractors are encouraged to cut construction waste by reducing, recycling or re-using building materials
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
For many builders, construction waste disposal is considered a necessary evil, one of the unavoidable costs of doing business.
A recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey reported that the average builder pays $511 per home for construction waste disposal, a figure that is expected to rise as old landfills close, and new ones become more difficult to site and more costly to design and operate.
However, if builders can reduce, recycle or re-use wood, cardboard and drywall materials that can make up as much as 60 percent to 75 percent of the waste from new construction job sites they may cut down on disposal costs significantly, said Peter Yost, research specialist for the NAHB Research Center.
If materials are wasted on a job site, the contractor pays twice: once for the original purchase of the material and again when the leftover material is hauled off for disposal, Yost explained.
By knowing what ends up in the job site dumpster, a contractor can find out just how efficiently his crews and subcontractors are using materials that affect the bottom line, he said.
Managing construction waste has become an increasingly important issue to the building industry, and the NAHB Research Center currently has a program in place for investigating cost-effective, voluntary alternatives.
Some construction materials, such as wood, metal, certain types of plastics and paper products, can be recycled. However, for recycling to work, collection, transport and processing methods must be available and cost-effective.
Disposal expenses arent the only factor that affect the attractiveness of recycling, Yost said. Market demand also must be considered.
Builders need to know what current disposal fees are, how fill capacity will affect fees in the future and what markets for construction waste materials are available locally, he said.
While recycling is popular in other areas of the United States and required in Canada, it hasnt developed much of a following in this region, local waste management officials said.
"Theres not a lot of recycling going on in the Tennessee construction market right now. Theres no money in it around here, so nobodys doing it," said John Boatwright, environmental protection specialist with the solid waste management division of the Tennessee Department of Conservation and Environment.
"One landfill operator actually tried to collect lumber and donate it to Habitat for Humanity, but there was just too much labor involved on both ends."
While the city of Memphis has a program underway for pickup and processing of household recyclables, local builders are on their own when it comes to construction waste. City ordinances prohibit the citys waste management division from collecting commercial construction or demolition waste.
Local recycling centers, including Memphis new recycling facility, only accept household materials. Construction waste products are not accepted by any recycling centers in Memphis or Shelby County, said Andy Ashford of the citys solid waste management administration.
According to Tennessee law, construction waste must be hauled by the contractor or a hauling company hired by the contractor to a landfill that is specially permitted for construction and demolition waste, Boatwright said.
While Tennessee law allows some construction materials to be disposed of on-site, such as burying or burning, local laws prohibit this in Memphis and Shelby County.
Boatwright said only two public landfills approved for construction and demolition waste are currently operating in Shelby County: the Jimmy T. Wood landfill on Klink Road and the Frank Road landfill on Shelton Road. Several local construction and demolition companies also operate private landfills in the area.
"Theres no place close to us to recycle commercial construction waste," said David Parsons of David Parsons Construction Co. "We end up putting it all in a waste container, and Ive got one guy that comes in and cleans it up and hauls it to the dump."
Parsons estimated that construction waste cleanup efforts, including labor and roughly a $60 per load hauling fee, added an average of about $850 to the cost of building a house.
According to the NAHB, if contractors employ efficient construction methods, they can keep waste from happening in the first place, or at least hold it to a minimum.
Leftover wood accounts for 40 percent to 50 percent of residential construction waste. Much of this can be eliminated through efficient framing techniques.
A critical element of efficient framing is planning, because the actual savings from waste reduction are small in comparison to the up-front expense of purchasing lumber, which currently costs more than $450 per thousand board feet.
For a framer to frame more efficiently, the builder should make sure that the framer has detailed framing plans at the job site, Yost said.
According to the NAHB, some types of waste materials can be reused on-site, including fiberglass and rigid insulation; slightly damaged finished products, such as cabinets and doors; large pieces of clean carpet and vinyl flooring; and masonry/concrete material.
Insulation materials can be added to attic space, and cosmetically damaged finished products can be donated to non-profit organizations and taken as a tax-exempt charitable donation.
Flooring and carpet can be rolled and stored for the home owner for future use, and brick and concrete waste can be used under walkways or driveways as fill material.
Another promising candidate for reuse and recycling is drywall, which makes up about 15 percent of job-site waste. Ground-up clean waste gypsum board can be recycled into new drywall, used for animal bedding or added to the soil.
An additional way general contractors can cut waste management costs is to get subcontractors, through a written contract, if possible, to agree to take responsibility for the waste they generate, Yost said. This may reduce a builders disposal costs by 80 percent to 90 percent.
Next year, the NAHB Research Center will begin offering a publication on construction waste disposal called "Residential Construction Waste Management: A Buyers Field Guide. The booklet will initially be released at the 1997 Builders Show in Houston.