Building green means more than filling a home with efficient products. It also covers what doesn't make it into the final dwelling.
Residential green building standards encourage builders to cut the waste that new construction makes. Besides lessening the impact on landfills and using fewer resources than traditional methods, reducing waste can help builders save money during these tough times.
While this may mean dealers get less in lumber sales, they can benefit in other ways. They can gain a pivotal role in the construction process by working with builders to develop a detailed project plan. This plan will result in less guessing during the ordering process and less chance of ordering too much material. Also, prefabricated and precut components can reduce waste at a site yet still result in sales. Some yards are taking it a step further by also providing recycling services for their customers.
"The NAHB estimates about 8,000 pounds of waste per [2,000 square foot] home," says Jay Hall, owner of Jay Hall &Associates, a company that helps professionals make green building decisions and offers consulting services to the U.S. Green Building Council. "Reducing waste is an opportunity to use less and save money at the same time."
Both the USGBC's LEED for Homes program and the NAHB's National Green Building Standards award points for reducing waste. In LEED, the criteria about waste lay in the Materials and Resources section. In the NAHB's standards, the content can be found in the Resource Efficiency section.
To reach the minimum level of LEED certification, a builder must earn at least 45 points by completing 18 prerequisites and suggested practices. The Materials and Resources section contains three prerequisites, and at least two points must come from that section.
The minimum amount of points for NAHB certification is 222. Forty-five of those points must come from the Resource Efficiency section, the second-most required for any category.
Planning ahead thoroughly before a project results in ordering less extra materials and, therefore, less waste left at a site. "People don't typically do that planning, and that's why they pad the order," Hall says.
Both residential standards award points for detailed framing plans and cut lists that correspond with them. The NAHB also rewards points for detailed material lists. A dealer should work with the builders to use plans to make precise orders. LEED requires that builders limit the amount of excess material ordered before construction for framing to 10% or less.
Dealers also can offer services that use plans to help builders earn points. For example, both standards award points for prefabricated components, such as open-web floor trusses. Both also award points for panelized construction, such as in wall, roof, and floor assemblies, and precut components.
Lawrence Citarelli Jr., president of Lawrence III Corp., which builds custom homes in Long Island, N.Y., sends his home plans to a company that cuts the framing material, trim, and other components of the house in a controlled factory environment, then ships materials to the site. This reduces Citarelli's dumpster and recycling loads by about 80%, he says. "We're mitigating a tremendous amount of cuts and waste," he says.
Matt Belcher owns Belcher Homes in Wildwood, Mo., which builds only green homes. He says using panelized construction reduced their waste considerably. "The quality control is better, and it cuts at least half the time of out of the construction schedule," he says.
Dealers can schedule deliveries with builders to ensure that products do not get damaged. "Oftentimes, [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 might get damaged," says Kevin Morrow, program manager for the NAHB's standards.
Along with planning ahead to reduce over-ordering and on-site cutting, using advanced framing techniques further reduces the need for material. Both the NAHB and LEED award points when builders use advanced framing techniques. For example, LEED awards points for joist and rafter spacing greater than 16 inches on center.
Create a Diversion
After making plans to prevent as much waste as possible, builders need to deal with the waste they do end up with.
The NAHB awards points for the development and use of a construction waste management plan that has a goal of recycling or salvaging a minimum of 50% (by weight) of construction and land-clearing waste.
LEED requires builders find and document local options for diverting waste from landfills for "all anticipated major constituents of the project waste stream, including cardboard packaging and household recyclables (e.g. beverage containers)."
Both organizations say builders must prove how much waste goes to landfills. Comparing materials lists to plans lets the organizations know how much extra was ordered. Documents such as waste hauler tags that track what goes to a landfill, and a document from the waste hauler if they practice off-site reclamation, would track waste, Hall says. Morrow says pictures and descriptions of recycling areas can also be proof.
"If you are talking about something where you saved, you do have to have proof for whatever points you are claiming," he says.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
LEED awards points to builders who generate 2.5 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 awards points for recycled construction materials, such as wood or metal, and for the sorting and reuse of scrap building materials.
Concrete can be crushed and used for the base of a driveway, Morrow says. Or drywall and wood products can be ground up and used as a soil supplement on site, Hall says. Both say local chapters of their organizations can help builders find local solutions for recycling and reuse of materials.
Dealers can become a resource to builders that divert waste.
The Jones Co., a builder in the Nashville, Tenn., area, issued a press release stating that it "will be investing hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years by making 'Green' [sic] homes a standard offering for every home they build." In the release, they stated that they buy lumber from Huskey Building Supply and Stewart Lumber Co., "both of which provide materials that reduce the resources necessary to frame a house, and have recycling programs for excess wood."
Dealers can scout out local opportunities for waste diversion. For example, Belcher says he uses a variety of local sources. A scrapyard takes his metal waste, a Boy Scout troop takes some leftover wood, and an equestrian facility uses ground-up wood waste as bedding for horses. Not only does Belcher feel good that his waste has a purpose beyond sitting in a landfill, but he also saves money by finding alternative paths for his scraps.
"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 $700 right there," he says.
Planning to manage construction waste can save loads of material from sitting in junkyards, and also save builders money on projects.
Hall says that the average LEED for Homes house features a 25% to 50% reduction in waste over traditional projects.
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.