Construction & Demolition: Solutions for Environmental Change
With environmental issues an ever present concern in our daily lives, it’s no surprise that the construction industry is tackling these issues head-on. Complete or partial demolition of condemned or old buildings to pave the way for new construction is a positive sign of economic growth and development. However, the waste produced in both demolition and construction presents environmental problems that are being addressed in some interesting ways.
A few months ago, we talked about asbestos concerns and its impact on workers and the environment in this blog post. Asbestos is just one of the issues that falls under the umbrella of construction and demolition (C&D) waste. The EPA estimates that 136 million tons of debris is generated each year (source: Powell Center for Construction and Environment). With increasing urbanization worldwide, this is an issue that affects many countries. The video below shows a building in Xi’an, China being demolished in seconds. It is fascinating to watch in part because of the precision and lack of damage to the surrounding buildings. However, the building itself is emblematic of China’s “ghost towns.” China’s rapid growth over the last few decades resulted in entire cities being built – and never used. Could the materials in those unused buildings be recycled or repurpose for other construction projects?
The concept of re-use and recycling within C&D may seem like a complex and expensive undertaking. According to the EPA, the reality is that these practices create jobs, reduce expenses for disposal costs, and help the environment by saving landfill space. The market for recycling and “green” waste management is predicted to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.67% as reported by a Construction Waste Management Market study published in 2015. Government entities are also getting on board. Austin, TX, just announced that it will require builders working on projects larger than 5,000 feet to recycle or salvage at least half of their scraps and the same will be required for demolition projects by 2019.
Creative Solutions to Recycle Waste
“Green” building has been gaining momentum for some time now. The US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system is prestigious and used worldwide. A building with LEED certification was designed and built to improve energy savings and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, among other criteria.
Some recent developments from around the industry:
- A startup called Smash My Trash, based in Houston, TX, aims to improve the waste removal process through new trash compression technology and a smartphone app. Rather than having to haul a dumpster multiple times, the compression and the ease of communication through the app will streamline that process.
- Green 3Power in Florida has secured an agreement to build a renewable energy facility that converts different types of waste, including construction and demolition waste, into synthetic green diesel fuel.
- A professor at the University of Colorado has developed a recycled product made from waste material that can be used in construction projects to build walls, roofs, and floors.
We will be watching this segment of the industry with great interest and believe it has great potential for both the economy and the environment. CRG’s co-founder, Dean Raftopoulos, has personally been involved in the environmental field for over 15 years. If you are interested in learning more about our environmental services or our representation, you can contact us at 603-427-2300 for more information.