The less talked about side of construction

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock via Quest Resource Management Group

Comprised of more than 733,000 employers and approximately seven million employees, the construction industry is a major contributor to the US economy.

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the multi-family sector posted a strong performance in 2021, with nearly 213,000 units delivered by mid-year, according to data from Yardi Matrix. As of June, 863,500 units were under construction nationwide, of which 334,000 are expected to be delivered by the end of the year, up 17% from last year and above the 2019 total. , when 307,000 units have been added to inventory.

But what happens with the tons of construction waste generated by all these new projects? Ray Hatch, CEO and President of Quest Resource Management Group, shares his thoughts on managing construction waste and pursuing more sustainable construction practices.

Tell us more about Quest’s history as a company. Why was it launched?

Ray Hatch, CEO and President, Quest Resource Management Group. Image courtesy of Quest Resource Management Group

hatch: Quest Resource Management Group was launched in 2007 as a national provider of waste and recycling services. The company was formed to tackle the ever growing problem of commercial waste by recycling used tires under the name Quest Recycling Services LLC.

We have broadened our reach as the size of the recycling industry has grown over the years due to environmental concerns and overcrowded landfill spaces. As a result, Quest has created additional opportunities and implemented multiple recycling programs for over 100 impactful waste streams.

Today, we help companies achieve their environmental and sustainable development goals and responsibilities. Using our in-depth expertise, we develop customer-specific solutions and deal with various waste and recyclable material streams across all industries, including multi-family and construction.

What happens to construction waste today? How much is recycled?

hatch: Unfortunately, the construction industry creates a number of waste streams that typically go straight to dumpsters or landfills due to the perceived costs and complexity of recycling.

A study by the Environmental Protection Agency said the United States produced nearly 600 million tonnes of construction and demolition debris in 2018, and about 75% of all construction waste was sent to landfills. If this waste is not treated properly, it can release toxins into the soil and into our water supply, which naturally impacts both the environment and general public health.

That said, many of these materials, including concrete, some metals, and cardboard, can actually be recycled and live beyond their original purpose. By properly recycling and disposing of waste materials like these, construction sites can maintain cleaner and safer working conditions, allowing teams to work more efficiently. It also preserves landfill space and reduces the environmental impact of the production of new materials and overall construction project expenses by avoiding purchase costs. Not to mention that it can create more jobs.

Careful consideration of construction inputs and outputs has become increasingly important, especially as we examine the increased demand for projects created by today’s hot housing market.

How does the recycling process work?

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock via Quest Resource Management Group

hatch: There are two basic ways to recycle building materials: mix them or separate them at the source.

Construction companies tend to look into mixing their waste because it is a less expensive option that saves space on construction sites. When you mix recycling products, such as concrete, wood, cardboard, and metal, carriers can take these items to a construction and demolition landfill or construction recycling facility. The advantage is that these sites offer more comprehensive recycling than municipal solid waste landfills, which do not.

Once sent to the construction and demolition or construction recycling facility, the materials can be processed on-site or at other recycling facilities. Here are some examples:

  • The concrete is crushed and used for the base of the road.
  • The wood is either sent to a composting facility or treated – mulched – on site for commercial and residential use in the gardens.
  • The metal is sent to a metal recycling facility.
  • The cardboard is transferred to a material recovery facility then transported to a paper mill which transforms it back into cardboard.
  • When there are no facilities to send the materials for recycling, they will be sent to the facilities for reuse.

When you take the road separate from the source, you will have three to five containers there. This requires training everyone on the job site, so that they know how the materials are separated. You also need signage on the dumpsters with photos of the materials. This process can cause difficulties for construction companies who have employees who come and go. In addition, when containers are transported to be emptied, it is not always the same container that returns to the site, resulting in the loss of signage.

Who are your clients ?

hatch: Quest works with over 40,000 companies nationwide and processes over 1.4 million tonnes of material per year across all industries. Part of this work includes investment, development and management services, as we partner with other companies that build structures and infrastructure to improve people’s lives, work and communities.

Recycling rates vary from company to company, depending on their sustainability goals and what is available in their region. However, a recycling rate of 70-80% is achievable on almost all C&D and construction sites.

What projects are you currently working on? A specific project you would like to tell us about?

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock via Quest Resource Management Group

hatch: One client Quest works with is a nationwide catering company that provides assistance to those who have faced extraordinary obstacles, such as fire or water damage, mold, or clean-up. Quest contributes to its mission by installing equipment on site to maximize its operational efficiency and sustainability goals.

We’re also seeing a lot of activity with Ghost Kitchens, a burgeoning niche market that is experiencing even greater growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tell us about your relationship with the USGBC LEED certification program.

hatch: Quest stays up to date on LEED changes and requirements. Obtaining LEED certification depends on either the construction company or the city in which the project is built. General contractors are the ones who let us know whether or not it will be a LEED project.

With LEED projects, monthly reports are sent to general contractors that show what materials are being diverted from the landfill. Then it is up to a general contractor to submit these reports to the USGBC to obtain building certification. Some projects may meet LEED requirements but refuse to obtain certification because of its price. However, general contractors always keep track of how much and what materials are diverted from the landfill.

READ ALSO: Best States for Multi-Family LEED Certifications in 2021

What strategies have been shown to be effective in helping real estate project owners adopt green building practices?

hatch: The first and most important step in adopting green building practices is careful planning and organization. Project managers can create more sustainable business operations by frequently evaluating their inputs and outputs. With careful inventory management, waste reporting, and awareness of changing costs of recycled materials, project managers can avoid producing massive amounts of waste. Knowledge through accurate and robust waste analyzes not only helps our health and our planet, but also leads to more profitable margins.

Most project managers want to adopt green or operational building strategies because consumers are looking for them these days. It makes properties more attractive if they are built and maintained with eco-friendly strategies, like a recycling program for an apartment complex or a door-to-door service that makes recycling more convenient for residents.

In terms of effective strategies, they must be easy to implement and must achieve cost neutral or higher. At Quest, we’re always up for the job, but we have to make sure the customer gets back what we’ve all invested in.

READ ALSO: Clean Water Expert on sustainability, value creation

What do you think of the legislation associated with the management of construction waste?

hatch: Legislation should be assessed keeping in mind short and long term impacts. Consideration must be given to the economic and environmental impacts and associated long-term solutions.

The current growth in recycling is largely driven by the free market and in particular the increase in landfill costs. As the economy moves towards recycling, companies will more aggressively adopt more sustainable practices. Ultimately, our goal is to help businesses accomplish just that, reducing their waste footprint, mitigating risk, and improving jobsite safety. We want to make sure that organizations provide the best service to their customers while achieving their economic and sustainability goals.

Are there any changes you would apply to the current legislation?

hatch: Most construction waste legislation is at the state and municipal level. This poses significant challenges in ensuring that you are fully compliant depending on the location of the job site. Costs rise to manage compliance and mitigate risk due to the fractured legislative framework.

With sustainability, as well as ESG becoming the main platform guiding today’s activities, we expect that the free market and more comprehensive legislation at all levels will lead to more waste solutions. sustainable.

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