Construction: Increase Profits with Recycling and Reuse Best Practices

Construction managers’ success in recycling and repurposing materials/fixtures can make the difference on whether a construction project comes in on budget in today’s still-depressed construction industry. Two factors are driving this trend. The first is the increasing value real estate buyers and renters place upon green labeled buildings. In California a green labeled home sells for a 9 percent premium. In the commercial building market the increasing numbers of companies focused on operational efficiency has created a strong rental market for USGBC LEED certified buildings. A key feature of LEED certification and other green labeled buildings is the reuse of materials, fixtures and buildings.

Construction recycling/reuse best practices

The other major driver is a growing market in recycled materials and reusable fixtures. The construction industry uses more materials by weight than any other industry in the United States producing 325 million tons of recoverable construction and demolition materials. Approximately 8,000 lbs of waste are thrown into the landfill during the construction of a 2,000 square foot home. That is a lot of construction dollars that will either be lost to landfill tipping fees or gained by successfully selling this material for recycling or reuse.

Six-step plan for making money by recycling and reusing construction material

1. Think first.

Demolition by sledgehammer will cost you money. The first step to making money through recycling/reuse is to survey what is in the building and develop an inventory of materials that can be sold to recycling companies or can be reused. Then use the web and your phone to figure out who will pay for what in terms of reusable and recyclable material in the building industry. (See video below for a website that does this work for you!).

Also work with the architect on what can be recaptured for reuse in the new construction. This homework before the demolition crew arrives can increase a project’s margins and bid competitiveness. Many companies now target diverting at least 50 percent of their construction landfill waste and best-in-class operations like the St. Croix Habitat for Humanity Eco-Village target 90 percent landfill diversion.

2. Create a lay down area

What you plan to sell from the demolition process requires a lay down area just like new materials. And it should be similarly organized with designated areas and containers for the sorting of materials and fixtures. This will make it easier to count and take pictures of materials and fixtures, which will make them easier to sell. If your lay down area is the big mental container supplied by the waste management company, then you might as well go to the ATM and get some cash to throw in there too, since the more stuff you pitch in the dumpster the more of your potential profits go with it to the landfill.

3.Create crew buy-in

Managing waste requires the engagement of all of your trades people. If you expect them to handle your demolition materials and fixtures like the dollars they represent, then you have to train them, set performance expectations and motivate them.

4. Measure/report

If you don’t measure how your workers are doing on materials capture, then the odds are they won’t do it. Keep track of what is being done. Having a lay down area makes this much easier. Make sure to report the results to your crew.

5. Keep it local

The best place to recycle and reuse demolition material is on your job site. This is an increasingly attractive path for cost mitigation and for the potential aesthetics often conveyed through the repurposing of bricks, woods and refurbished fixtures.

A market for reusable construction materials/fixtures

The best news for construction contractors is that there is now a website where you can sell and buy reusable materials and fixtures called Planet Reuse. The following video interview with Founder Nathan Benjamin taken at the Sustainable Brands 2012 conference profiles best practices for making money through buying or selling reusable construction materials and fixtures:

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