The United States generated an estimated 136 million tons of construction waste in 2008 according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This accounts for up to 40 percent of the country's solid waste [source: Whole Building Design Guide]. Green demolition or deconstruction is the dismantling of a building so that as many of its elements as possible (usually around 80 percent) can be recycled or reused rather than going to landfills and subsequently polluting the Earth's soil and water.
Green demolition is now mandatory in some cities, such as San Diego, California. Developers will only get their permit deposits refunded if they prove that 50 percent or more of their construction waste was reused or recycle. Some states have waste facilities that will accept construction waste in bulk for a higher fee while others require the materials to be separated before they can be processed.
Recycling is a costly process, which is why it's the last of the "three Rs" - reduce, reuse and recycle. Reducing requires advanced planning because it involves paying attention to the dimensions of the materials you'll need so you can get by without throwing out too much excess. This is especially true with cardboard, drywall and wood, the three most used construction materials. Reusing might be the most important of the three. All of the following materials can be reused in later projects if harvested properly:
- Wood floors and beams
- Windows and doors
- Fixtures and appliances
- Tiles and carpeting
- Aluminum siding
- Roofing materials
Green demolition takes time and also costs about $10,000 more per job than traditional demolition; but you can save money on landfill charges and also get tax credits if you donate some of the materials. In addition, if you want your company to be LEED certified according to the United States Green Building Council standards, you'll need to use green demolition.