Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do It Again

Green building is about much more than the house itself. The location of the home is important, and using the home as a tool to educate the public about the benefits of green building is also critical.

The process by which a home is built also determines whether a home can be considered 'green.' Site management, erosion control and tree protection are some examples. Recycling is another, and the focus of this blog post.

Prior to making a commitment to building green homes, I typically looked at construction waste management from a cost perspective; ie I would use whatever approach resulted in the lowest cost. If I had a big lot to work with, I'd usually get a 30 cubic yard construction dumpster, and every trade would throw all of their trash in it, regardless of whether the waste might have a second life. As a bonus, neighbors would inevitably take advantage of this big, free (to them) trash container and throw in old furniture, bikes, and anything else left over from the yard sale.

LEED rewards builders who manage construction waste effectively. The first part of managing waste is to minimize waste. Order what you need, not more. Use scrap effectively. I remember on the first LEED-certified home we built I drew out a cutting plan on the floor for the drywall team. This plan showed where full pieces would be used, and if a full piece had to be cut, I even identified locations where each piece of scrap could be used. Granted, the hangars looked at me kind of funny, and we didn't get 100% of what I wanted, but we got part of the way there. We ended up with much less scrap than usual (drywall is a great story which I'll blog about later).

Inevitably, there will be waste. What LEED encourages you to do is to segregate your waste into streams that can be recycled, and those that cannot.

We use small construction dumpsters from Mercados Construction Cleanup of Huntersville. We dedicate one dumpster to scrap lumber that can be recycled (essentially non-treated lumber). Signs in English and Spanish identify this dumpster, and we review it with each trade.

In addition to lumber, we recycle cardboard, drywall, and plastic bottles. I found that on the first LEED-certified home we were able to recycle about 38% of our construction waste. What's more, because of our focus on waste management we actually spent less money in this area. To me, that's the beauty of green building: learning to do more with less.

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