According to a fact sheet by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the construction industry consumed 60 percent of the materials flow in the U.S. economy (excluding food and fuel).” 

This estimate signaled an immense opportunity for builders to reuse and recycle construction and demolition (C&D) materials (which include steel, wood products, asphalt shingles, concrete, asphalt concrete, drywall and plaster, and brick and clay tile), and since then, construction and demolition companies have developed sustainable and environmentally-friendly building and demolition standards.    

Sustainable C&D Practices

EPA data shows that an “estimated 548 million tons of C&D were generated in the United States in 2015, which is more than twice the amount of generated MSW,” or municipal solid waste. It is the responsibility of builders and demolition companies to adhere to sustainable construction and demolition practices and reduce the environmental impact of C&D. The EPA has provided the following strategies:

1. Develop an adaptation or disassembly plan with key information.

Create a plan for disassembly and demolition; as-built drawings should label connections and materials to support efficient disassembly and deconstruction. 

2. Use simple open-span structural systems and standard size, modular buildings components and assemblies.

A simple structure and form will allow for ease of construction and deconstruction. Creating a wide structural grid will maximize the non-structural wall elements and reduce the need for extra materials.

3. Use durable, reusable and recyclable materials. 

Limit the different types of materials used in a project to simplify the separation process during demolition. Avoid using toxic and hazardous materials that could hinder or prohibit future reuse and recycling. Also, use the same material when making inseparable products. 

4. Minimize the use of different types of materials and make connections visible and accessible.

Avoid using secondary finishes that might cover connections and make it difficult to locate connection points. Joints and connectors should be designed to withstand repeated assembly and disassembly. 

5. Use mechanical fasteners such as nails, bolts and screws instead of sealants and adhesives. 

Mechanical fasteners support efficient disassembly and reduce the likelihood of a material being disqualified for reuse or recycling. 

At Matrix Environmental, we pride ourselves on being the leader in implementing sustainable, environmentally-friendly demolition practices. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to learn more about our approach and how we can help with your demolition project.