The International Green Construction Code (IGCC) is a model code for cities seeking to promote sustainable building practices through their building codes. The IGCC promotes transition from the current voluntary green construction certifications, like USGBC’s LEED, to mandatory green construction codes. As the most recent revisions   of the IGCC are currently under review, Green Building Law Update hopes to promote awareness by examining some of the code sections.

Section 502.1: Not less than 50 percent of non-hazardous construction waste shall be diverted from landfills, except where other percentages are indicated in Table 302.1. A Construction Material and Waste Management Plan shall be developed and implemented to recycle or salvage construction materials and waste.

There is a silver lining for the Great Recession: less trash.  National waste has dropped causing the annual intake of the nation’s largest landfill to fall by 34%.  Reflecting in part the effects of a slowed economy, this precipitous drop also demonstrates the growing trend favoring green waste management. 

As a major producer of waste, construction has been no exception to this green trend. In green building, the ultimate destination of waste leaving a construction site is becoming just as important as the materials coming into the site. In D.C., Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) diverted 72% of its construction waste last year, adding up to over 1,200 tons.  

Among the cranes and bulldozers, construction sites often contain oversized and overflowing dumpsters. It should be no surprise that the average new construction project yields 3.9 lbs. of waste per square foot while the average building demolition project yields 155 lbs. of waste per square foot.

Through its requirement of a Construction Material and Waste Management Plan, the IGCC strives to reduce construction waste in landfills. Section 502.1 requires at least 50% of construction waste to be diverted to other uses. Under Table 302.1 jurisdictions may opt for more strict requirements of up to 75% waste diversion.

Construction waste includes both demolished materials as well as excess new building materials. Demolition waste can be diverted from landfills using a recycling company, reusing old materials in the new construction, or by donating or selling materials to others. 

In the current economy reuse and recycling is an increasingly popular money saving strategy. Construction projects have used similar strategies and found financial incentives in coordinating waste diversion efforts. 

One builder’s trash may be another builder’s treasure. Selling some of their diverted waste can help builders offset some of their costs.  JLL noted that steel waste was especially valuable. Builders can also save money with a comprehensive plan to prevent overbuying and increase the efficient use of materials.

As building codes increasingly encourage the use of recycled goods, builders are encouraged to find the most environmental and economic use for their disposed materials. The IGCC Construction Material and Waste Management Plan promotes and codifies the green waste trend which will hopefully maintain these practices in a better economy.

Photo Credit: ell brown