Using recycled building materials or materials that contain recycled content is a straightforward step to sustainability for building designers and construction professionals.
According to the EPA, each year in the United States, industries produce half a billion tons of residuals that are potentially reusable, with the construction and demolition sector a major producer of such waste. Factoring in reduced consumption of needed commodities, reduced carbon output in material production, less stress on landfills and job creation, the reasons for implementing this tried and true building and design option are abundant.
Structural materials like steel are often made with recycled content, as are exterior materials like roofing. Recycled glass can be used for an array of applications such as incorporation into fiberglass and asphalt, and recycled plastics can be used in some surprising applications such as insulation, roofing tiles and carpeting, not to mention the more obvious choices like fences, floor and ceiling tiles. Concrete can also be recycled when crushed as aggregate for new concrete.
Use of recycled building materials can reduce the amount of energy used to produce new materials, as less resources are required to create them. This will also impact the embodied carbon that is emitted during the production process.
On the interior side, salvaged wood can make for a beautiful addition with a new life as cabinetry or flooring. Many types of flooring can also be comprised of recycled materials.
LEEDing the way
Using recycled building materials or designing with industrial materials garners points under USGBC’s LEED green building certification program. These materials are often less expensive, making an obvious business sense to the developer or property owner while making that important impact on the environment in terms of waste diversion. Also on the business side, construction companies taking part in a recycling program can save on waste disposal costs.