Environmental Protection

Sustainable Construction Waste Management Most Important Green Building Practice

McGraw-Hill Construction, part of The McGraw-Hill Companies, recently released the report, "Sustainable Construction Waste Management: Creating Value in the Built Environment", which reveals that 61 percent of contractors rate waste management plans as the second most important aspect of green building, just behind energy efficiency.

The study was produced with support from Waste Management, Inc.

According to the study, United States generated 143.5 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris in 2008, but only 28 percent—40.2 million tons—was reused, recycled or sent to waste-to-energy facilities. The study highlighted that contractors recognize the substantial impact that sustainable construction waste management can have on their businesses, and a growing number are adopting environmental conscious practices to divert and recycle more materials and reduce disposal to landfills.

While total construction is expected to fall another 25 percent in 2009, green building has grown dramatically in recent years and is expected to continue its upward trend. By 2013, McGraw-Hill Construction projects that the green building market will be up to 25 percent of all new construction starts by value, equating to a $140 billion market. This rapidly growing green share of the building market presents extensive market opportunities for green building aspects like waste management.

"Green building presents a huge market opportunity for construction firms," said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of global thought leadership and business development, McGraw-Hill Construction. "This report analyzes an important contributor to a successful green building plan: sustainable construction waste management. Firms at the forefront of the green movement are actively looking for ways to reduce, recycle and reuse materials—actions that lead to decreased costs, improved client satisfaction, and compliance with growing government regulations."

Highlights from report include:

  • Most contractors place sustainable waste management (61 percent) and responsible use of materials and resources (57 percent) as two of the three most important aspects of green building, behind energy efficiency. This importance is expected to increase in five years to 80 percent and 78 percent, respectively.
  • Waste diversion activity is increasing despite the recession; 20 percent of firms are diverting half of their construction waste on 60 percent or more of projects, and 25 percent of firms expect to do so within the next year.
  • The biggest drivers behind sustainable construction waste management practices include client demand (82 percent) and government regulations (81 percent). Competitive advantage (77 percent) and increases in education and awareness (75 percent) are also cited as major influencing factors.
  • Already, 57 percent of contractors have set sustainability positions and diversion goals, and 43 percent plan to divert more than 50 percent of waste from projects this year.

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