What is the toxicity of disposed material?
Does the material contain any toxic ingredients?
Does the decomposition of the material release toxins to air, soil, or water?
Does the decomposition of the material release greenhouse gasses?
Making Good Choices
There are two aspects to managing construction waste:
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Job site construction waste — Considers material selections based on the quantity and type of leftovers, offcuts, and waste associated with each material during the construction phase.
Deconstruction waste — Considers materials selections based on the quantity and type of waste associated with the removal/ replacement of each material during future renovations or deconstruction.
Both considerations should be given equal weight, as it doesn’t matter to the planet or future generations if a material is bound up in a building for 10 years or 200; either way, it will end up back in the ecosystem, and its impacts will be the same. Choosing materials that have bad or questionable disposal consequences under the pretext that “it’s safe while it’s in the building” is simply deferring the issue for a little while.
Reducing job site waste requires forethought and organization. The construction plan needs to account for the types and volumes of waste that will be generated and also the timing of waste production. A waste management strategy must be formulated in advance, and then communicated to everybody on the construction site. If the process for dealing with different waste streams is clearly understood and easy to implement, it has a chance of succeeding. Otherwise, laziness and indifference tend to win out.
The measurement of waste streams is critical to ensuring that targets are actually reached. Volume or weight records should be noted for all materials that leave the site during the project to determine whether the system is working or requires improvements.