Reducing Waste

Claudette Reichel  |  6/19/2008 2:11:59 AM

Figure 1, Modular Design in 2 ft. Dimensions

Reduced construction waste

You pay for construction waste three times - to buy the unused material, to have workers handle it and for its final disposal. Reducing waste saves money and time

Modular planning: Since sheathing materials are typically 4x8 feet, waste and labor are reduced when the exterior perimeter dimensions of the walls and roof are designed in 2-ft. multiples. Lumber waste is reduced when window and door rough openings align with studs. Interior material waste is reduced when as many rooms as possible are sized in multiples of 2 feet. Size rooms that will use rolled floorings (carpet, vinyl) within the roll width (usually 12 feet) to reduce both the amount needed and waste.  (Figure 1, Modular Design in 2 ft. Dimensions)

Low-waste building systems and components: Trusses, panels and other components made in a factory cut job site waste for those elements and take advantage of manufacturing efficiencies. Examples of building systems that create less waste than standard framing include OVE advanced framing systems, modular housing, panelized systems such as precut SIPS, cast and shotcrete concrete systems (especially those with integrated insulation) and steel framing.

Site waste plans: The contractor’s development of a framing plan, cut list and central cut area will reduce waste created on site. When subcontracts are priced by the finished area, instead of material used, there is incentive to use materials most efficiently.

Recycling building materials: Recycling leftover construction materials and using salvaged materials from “deconstructed” houses (those taken apart for reuse rather than demolished) are options that are growing in popularity and availability. Explore opportunities to use scraps, donate leftovers to nonprofit organizations (such as Habitat for Humanity ReStores) and separate recyclables at the source (particularly metal, given its immediate cash value). Clean drywall can be used inside interior walls where sound-proofing is desired or sometimes as a soil amendment on site. Mill cleared trees or grind for mulch. Hazardous materials must be disposed of properly.

For additional information and a directory of material recyclers, see the Building Materials Reuse Association website.

Household Waste Management

Include kitchen storage space for recycling sorting bins and nearby space for larger community bins in your home design. Include a home composting site in the landscape plan. Information on home composting and household waste management is available from your local Extension office or

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