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Starting the Net Zero Journey: Actionable Steps for Construction Managers

By Avetta Marketing
October 23, 2022
6 minutes

For companies who’ve decided to initiate zero-waste policies at their firms, the first step can be the hardest one to take. This is an industry built heavily on routine and repetition, and breaking from the norm can be difficult, even if it is to create a more eco-friendly, sustainable future.

Today, we’re taking a look at how to apply these strategies as you move forward. From existing and in-motion projects to ones you haven’t started yet, we’ll share how to jump in and get started the right way.

Start With a Waste Minimization Plan

A waste minimization plan acts as an inventory and waste monitoring system that can set your construction business up for success. A well-defined plan will contain the following elements:

Defining Goals and Strategies

The first step is to define the goals you want to set around waste minimization and recycling, and the steps you’ll take to get there. Especially if you’re just starting out on this journey, you’ll be mostly referencing existing frameworks and using them to visualize a best-case scenario.

The more you read and learn about projects that are similar to yours in scope and size, the more ideas you’ll be able to incorporate into your own plan. These strategies don’t have to be perfect right now, but it’s important to get them down on paper so you know how to begin.

You’ll also include data tracking and management goals within the plan, so you can use the results of your current project to inform your next one and make it even stronger.

Assessing Local Inventory

It’s important to know which materials are available for reuse or recycling throughout the project. This requires taking a local inventory of not only the materials at the job site but also off-site.

Research what’s available in the community where you’re building, and reach out to public and private resources that can act as third-party material reusers or resellers. Sometimes, location will dictate how feasible this step will be. If there isn’t a local recipient available to take excess waste, the amount of carbon generated by flying that waste elsewhere can offset the intent.

Develop Methods for Tracking Tonnage and Volume

Residential construction companies need concrete methods for tracking the material impact of their activities. This also helps in the costing aspect of each job.

If you’re utilizing third-party services to pick up or transport materials, analyzing these metrics can also help you ensure that your billing and reporting activities are accurate. Scheduling and facilitating these services can be one of the most challenging aspects of waste management and materials management in general, but it’s critical as you make strides toward a zero-waste project.

Define Diversion Channels by Region

Regardless of the specified waste stream (reusable, recyclable, salvageable), there are usually 5 to 10 different innovative ways that construction companies can repurpose and reuse those components.

For instance, items that can be easily removed, such as doors, hardware, and appliances, can be salvaged for donation or used on other jobs. Other common diversion channels include:

  • Wood cutoffs: Use when full-length lumber isn’t necessary (e.g. cripples, lintels, blocking)
  • Scrap wood: Chip on-site and use as a ground cover
  • Gypsum: De-paper, crush, and use as a soil amendment in small quantities
  • Brick, concrete, masonry: Recycle on-site and use as subbase material, fill, or driveway bedding
  • Insulation: Use excess from exterior walls to deaden noise in interior walls
  • Packaging materials: Return unused materials to suppliers for reuse

You can contact regional municipal and green regulatory bodies to maximize your on-site diversion efforts. These entities already have connections, and may already have preferred vendor lists for you to review.

One area of special consideration: Pay close attention to the way your firm uses and repurposes cardboard, especially as items are now being shipped further distances. By volume, wood, drywall, and cardboard make up 60% to 80% of all construction waste. Thankfully, it’s one of the easiest materials to recycle, so you should be able to find a participating program near your job site.

Other Considerations

Other considerations that should be included in your waste minimization plan include:

  • Methods for managing hazardous materials
  • Processes to measure the expected quality grade of each material waste stream
  • Processes for collecting, storing, and hauling materials
  • Methods to educate and train the team on zero-waste policies
  • The estimated cost of implementing the plan and the savings you expect

Maximizing Your Net-Zero Program

A zero-waste program touches on many different aspects of ESG. As you begin working with your contractors, suppliers, and vendors to begin formulating a waste minimization plan, think about the priorities you’re setting and begin to work those into your procurement considerations.

You can leverage technology platforms to connect with sustainability-compliant suppliers that share your vision.

This way, you’ll only connect with stakeholders that are already familiar with these types of initiatives, and may even be able to bring their own resources to the table.

To get the word out, develop a communication strategy that outlines how you’ll share your zero-waste commitment with existing and new supply chain partners. You can also integrate this plan into your current and future marketing efforts, so your goals become synonymous with your brand.

Interested in learning more about what a zero-waste future looks like in the residential construction industry? Check out our recent webinar: Strategies for Zero Waste in Residential Construction. You can download and view the webinar in full online!

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