Huskey Truss and Building Supply has gone green without changing a thing. How? By taking advantage of an important aspect of green construction: minimizing waste.
Donna Smith, manager of one of Huskey's three stores, says the services capitalize on a trend she's noticing around middle Tennessee. "A lot of builders don't even want to use dumpsters anymore," Smith says. "Everybody is trying as hard as they can to minimize waste to decrease the cost of their product and for the environment."
While the cost of dumping undoubtedly is helping drive builders to minimize waste, that effort is likely to gain momentum as more and more builders try to construct homes that qualify as green under the major certification programs. Both the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes program and the NAHB's National Green Building Standards award points for cutting back waste. In addition, a report by McGraw-Hill and the NAHB finds that 56% of builders surveyed believe building green makes it easier to market homes in a down economy, and 21% expect 90% of their projects to be green in 2009.
Waste matters to green construction because there's so much of it that goes into landfills; the NAHB estimates it at about 8,000 pounds of construction waste per 2,000 square foot home, says Jay Hall, who owns Jay Hall & Associates, a green consulting company that works with the USGBC.
In LEED, the criteria regarding waste rests in the materials and resources section. In the NAHB's standards, it's in the resource efficiency section.
To reach minimum LEED certification, builders must get at least 45 points by completing 18 prerequisites and suggested practices. The materials and resources section has three prerequisites, and at least two points must come from that section.
The minimum points for NAHB certification is 222. Forty-five must come from the resource efficiency section, the second-most required for any category.
Think Ahead. Planning before a project means generating less waste. Dealers should use house plans to make explicit orders.
Both standards award detailed framing plans and cut-lists. The NAHB also credits detailed materials lists. LEED requires builders to limit excess material ordered before construction for framing to 10% or less.
Dealers can offer other services that earn points. Both standards award prefabricated components, such as open-web floor trusses; panelized construction, such as in wall assemblies; and precut components. "When you use panels, trusses, and engineered floor systems, the waste is reduced by 50%," Smith says.
Lawrence Citarelli Jr. is president of Lawrence III Corp. and Cristal Properties International Real Estate. His custom homes sit in the Hamptons of Long Island, N.Y., and in the Dominican Republic. Having components cut in a factory environment reduces his dumpster and recycling loads by about 80%, he says.
Dealers can also schedule deliveries to ensure products do not get damaged. "Oftentimes, [the materials] have to be stored in an area where you need to pay for a storage container, or they are not stored away safe from the weather, and they may get damaged," says Kevin Morrow, program manager for the NAHB's standards.
Using advanced framing techniques further decreases material needs. Both the NAHB and LEED award advanced framing techniques.
Hillsboro, Ore.-based Parr Lumber started a building service in January that combines factory assembly with advanced framing techniques to cut lumber waste by 75%. "It's a good way not only for us but for builders to differentiate themselves," says Jennifer Swick, director of marketing for Parr.
Create a Diversion. After planning to prevent waste, builders need to deal with the leftovers.
The NAHB awards the development and use of a plan that has a goal of recycling or salvaging at least 50% by weight of construction and land-clearing waste. LEED requires builders find and document local options for diverting waste from landfills.
Both organizations say builders need to provide proof of how much waste goes to landfills. For example, comparing materials lists to plans lets the organizations know how much extra was ordered.
LEED awards builders that generate 21/2 pounds or less of net waste per square foot of conditioned floor area. The standard also awards points if 25% or more of the total materials taken off the construction site are diverted from landfills and incinerators.
The NAHB awards points if materials are ground or safely applied as soil amendment or fill, as regulations and codes allow, and at least 50% of construction and land-clearing waste is diverted from a landfill. The standard also recognizes recycling construction materials, such as wood or metal, and sorting and reusing scrap building materials.
Morrow and Hall say local chapters of their organizations can help builders recycle and reuse solutions. Dealers can become a resource to builders that divert waste.
Smith says her company will pick up any undamaged leftover lumber from jobsites that use conventional framing. Also, untreated scraps from the factory are ground up and sold as animal bedding.
Matt Belcher owns Belcher Homes in Wildwood, Mo., and builds only green homes. A scrapyard takes his metal waste, and a Boy Scout troop takes some leftover wood. "If you figure we were using about three dumpsters or so per house, at $350 a pop just to dump them, and you cut two of them out, that's $700 right there," he says.
Smith says customers have been asking her to define what is green and to provide green products. "If you have a lot of questions asked that you don't know, you have to learn quick," she says. So, she attended classes to get her green builder certification from the NAHB.
From project planning to providing material-efficient products and helping builders after a home is completed, dealers can become a valuable resource in the waste management process.
"What I get out of it is being able to partner with our builders and supply them with the information they need to continue to have good business sense and help them sell more homes to customers," she says. "We want to be there for them."