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LEED Certification: Sustainable Construction, Waste Management and LEED Certification

Shannon Bergstrom on March 31, 2021 - in Articles, Column

Green, sustainable construction is the way of the futureand modern companies are shifting their processes in that direction. When it comes to green construction, there’s one rating and certification system that holds authority worldwide: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It’s universally used for all types of projects, ranging from interior and exterior to residential and commercial. The goal of LEED is to ensure green buildings are efficient and cost-effective, while also taking care of the environment.

The LEED rating system consists of many criteria that construction companies need to match to become certified. One of those is construction waste management, which no company should overlook. Landfills are one of our major modern issues; they’re toxic, take up space that can be used otherwise and generally are quite expensive. Sustainable waste management has been at the forefront of green construction efforts for some time now. Although companies and organizations are making progress, there’s a lot more we can achieve.

Construction Waste Management in LEED

For your project to become LEED certified, it needs to pass the criteria found in LEED’s “Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning.” The project must have a construction waste-management plan focusing on recovering, reusing and recycling materials.

The plan must outline diversion goals for the project as a whole, and it needs to clearly identify five structural and nonstructural materials that will be targeted for diversion. In addition, the plan needs to define the specific diversion strategies to be used during the project, including logistics, recycling methods and expected diversion rates.

After completing the project, you will need to present a detailed report on the handling of construction waste and whether or not the plan was followed. The report must outline all waste streams, including their diversion and disposal rates. Assuming successful completion, you should earn the rating points this LEED category holds.

Best Practices in Construction Waste Management

Photo by Nathan Waters on Unsplash

To ensure compliance with LEED’s requirements for waste management, you need to have a broader strategy at play. Although it needs to be thoroughly outlined in the submitted plan, preparation for the construction project will take considerably more time. The following are a few key points you need to address when it comes to your project:

Ensure the Most-Efficient Supply Chain

Procurement is an essential part of any waste-management strategy. Any prospective supplier for your project needs to be contractually obliged to set their own waste-recovery targets as part of the tender process. Look for suppliers willing to take back excess materials and provide sustainability reports on a periodic basis. Of course, set up your own monitoring system so you can be confident suppliers are doing their job in the expected way.

Reduce Overall Waste

Careful procurement will ensure you order the most-efficient materials while minimizing overall waste. Don’t order more materials than what you can realistically use. When it comes to materials that can sustain damage by the elements or become spoiled over time, precise planning is your best tool. You need to be able to send any excess materials back to the manufacturer or reuse them for a different part of your project.

Another aspect that needs special attention is packaging. It’s not uncommon for deliveries to consist of 50 percent or more packaging, which presents a problem when it comes to waste. Choose suppliers from those which accept packaging returned for reuse, and work with suppliers to request the bare minimum of packaging materials.

Reuse and Repurpose Materials Effectively

It can be difficult to determine the exact quantities of materials you will need for each part of your construction project. However, if there are excessive materials, you need to have a plan to repurpose and reuse them for something else. If there’s no way to integrate the materials in your current project, look around for organizations that can use them instead.

For example, consider giving excess materials to another construction project or donate them to a local charity. Electrical parts, plumbing fixtures and construction equipment are in high demand in many industries. Collaborate with local businesses, and identify opportunities for exchanging waste and reusable materials.

Recycle Instead of Throw Away

If it’s not possible to arrange a return or buy-back deal with your suppliers or donate unused materials, there’s always the option of recycling excess materials. There are plenty of local and national organizations that will help. When it comes to sorting out materials for recycling, there are two options: onsite and offsite.

For onsite sorting, you need to partner with a good organization and follow local recycling guidelines. For offsite sorting, hire a waste hauler or a specialized recycling firm. They should be able to properly take care of the sorting process.

By following these guidelines, you will have a solid framework for your overall construction waste-management plan. Getting LEED certification is important for your project—it will ensure your building is green, sustainable and cost-efficient. With some careful planning, you will clear the bar when it comes to LEED’s construction waste-management requirements. 

Click here for more information about LEED certification.

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About Shannon Bergstrom

Shannon Bergstrom is a LEED Green Associate, TRUE waste advisor. She currently works at RTS, a tech-driven waste and recycling management company, as a sustainability operations manager; email: [email protected].

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