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Construction Waste Management – LEED v3 vs v4

Greenbuild is over, the holidays are upon us, and the clock is officially ticking on LEED v4 becoming the one and only option for new LEED projects. Just a short 10 months away! Its like counting down the ball drop on New Year’s Eve – or something like that.

Since LEED v4 will be the new reality, the Badger is taking some time to help detail what the new requirements are on the construction side of things, and how that will begin to impact general contractors and project teams, and we’re starting with construction waste.

Construction waste management is one of the most achieved credits in LEED v3. With diversion thresholds of 50 and 75%, two points are pretty realistic for most project teams. To earn the credit, project teams just needed to have a construction waste management plan in place that detailed who is responsible to tracking, who the waste hauler might be (if it was known) and what materials might be recycled or diverted. Not a ton of detail was required in the plan, and project teams could recycle as many or as few materials as they wanted. Demolishing a concrete building? Just recycle that and you could pretty much throw everything else out. Wood framed? A single wood dumpster might keep you over 50%. Unless you were doing completely commingled waste, and labeled it as such, documentation was pretty simple. As many or as few waste streams as project teams want to track, and just make sure you recycle 1 more pound than you throw out and you’re good.

Spoiler alert – things change with LEED v4. For starters, a strong construction waste management plan AND tracking waste is required as a new prerequisite – whether your attempting to earn any points or not. The requirements of the CWM plan have increased as well. You need to make sure you:

–Establish goals by identifying 5 materials and approximate percentage of waste they represent

–Specify whether materials will be separated or commingled, and the diversion strategies

–Provide a final report detailing all waste streams generate and diversion rates

That will get you in the door. To earn points, the credit gives you two options.

Option 1

–Divert 50% and 3 waste streams – 1 point

–Diver 75% and 4 waste streams – 2 points

Similar to LEED v3, it comes down to diversion percentages (50 and 75% again), BUT you now must achieve that over a variety of waste streams – at least 3 to earn one point and 4 for two points. So if you hit a 90% diversion rate, but only have 3 streams of material diversion, you’re stuck at 1 point. Waste streams lean towards individual material diversion rather than commingled. How the language currently reads, if you recycle 10 different materials all in 1 commingled dumpster, that only counts as 1 waste stream. This makes material separate on-site much more rewarding than using commingled – even if your hauler is providing material breakout reports. That said, there are many ways to get a material waste stream with no minimum quantities (there is a recommendation/best practice that a material stream makes up 5% of weight, but not a requirement). Donate 1 piece wood – that’s a material stream. Take 1 piece of metal to the recycling yard – that’s a material stream. So achievement is still quite possible and shouldn’t be too much harder than in LEED v3, but it will take a bit more planning and thought on the front end.

Option 2 – 2 points

–Do not generate more than 2.5 lbs/sf of project floor area

Option 2 is pretty straightforward but challenging as well – especially as the project closes out and those waste tickets start piling up! Option 2 is pretty cool because it actually rewards efficiency of construction – make less waste, get points. Option 1 and v3 let you create as much waste as you want, as long as you recycle it. In fact, you can actually be encouraged to create more waste – as long as you recycle it, you’re diversion percentages are higher!

Option 2 let’s you fine tune your construction practices – right sizing orders, eliminating rework, etc – and generate less total waste. As long as it is less than 2.5 pounds per square foot of building, you’re getting 2 points. One of my big frustrations with recycling is people think the act in and of itself is the actual goal, whereas the REAL goal should be the elimination of waste and the process that generates waste to begin with – and Option 2 puts us down that path.

2 thoughts on “Construction Waste Management – LEED v3 vs v4

  1. I do interior demolition in the NYC and Westchester County area. I consistently handle sheet rock, wood framing, carpeting, acoustical tile. I am interested in getting information on how to dispose of this debris in a recycling fashion opposed to sending to a transfer station. What are my options? Are there any places in my area that accept this debris as recyclable?
    Please advise…
    Thank you for any information you can give me

    1. For recycling sheetrock you can take a truck load of CLEAN sheetrock (so no paint or nails) back to a manufacturer. USG in PA receives sheetrock. Otherwise Cooptank Recycling is good and use to recycle clean sheetrock in addition to all of the other C&D waste.

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