As we all know, the housing market continues to be one of the primary sectors lagging in our economy, behind jobs and manufacturing. But still Americans continue to demolish, remodel or build homes. Whether it’s refreshing old kitchen countertops, adding a sunroom to the back of the house or building a new home for a growing family, there’s always room for change when it comes to our living space. But as many families focus on providing a safe and healthy home environment, so too should they focus on promoting a healthy global environment.
According to the Waste Market Overview & Outlook annual report, the U.S. generated 143.5 million tons of building-related construction and demolition (C&D) debris in 2008, a substantial portion of our nation’s waste stream. With this in mind, waste operators along with construction experts are working together to find ways to lower these volumes. Last month, leaders in the building and construction sectors assembled at the Association of General Contractors of America annual conference to discuss the state of their sectors, particularly looking at sustainability in construction.
Green building practices have emerged from this and other such discussions, which focus on better managing C&D waste, correcting inefficiencies and damage created by traditional construction, and building new homes with long-term environmental goals in mind. By reducing and reusing waste, improving air quality, increasing water and energy efficiency and relying more on renewable resources, builders can reduce their environmental impact, while making their projects more financially competitive.
According to the 2009 SmartMarket Report from McGraw-Hill Construction, which Waste Management sponsored, by 2013, the green building market will make up nearly 25 percent of all new construction starts and increase roughly the same amount in retrofit and renovation activity. State and local governments are supporting this movement, challenging contractors to implement sustainable waste strategies to bring environmental, economic and social benefits to local communities. The City of Bloomington, Ind. has outlined some key benefits of green building, including emissions reduction, increased property values and improved health.
Undoubtedly, green construction is only the first step for the building sector. Ensuring operational efficiency is just as important. Once the building is occupied, residents and businesses can improve their sustainability and competitiveness by reducing waste, safely managing hazardous materials such as mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs, and recycling materials such as paper, metal and plastics.
With the continued growth of green building trends, contractors will need to develop common practices to make sustainable construction both intuitive and economically preferable. We will all benefit from a construction sector that diverts materials from landfills for beneficial reuse and incorporates recycled materials into new projects.