More companies recycling debris from demolition

Approximately 124 million tons of debris are created by the demolition of buildings in the United States each year.

But as part of the increasingly popular green construction trend, more and more construction companies are recycling materials taken from demolished buildings. Scrap concrete can be ground up and used to fill in the site, steel from the structure’s frame can be melted to create new construction supports, scrap aluminum can be used to manufacture cans and foam board ceiling tiles can be returned to the manufacturer to be reused.

PNC Financial Services plans to recycle more than 70 percent of a seven-story building in downtown Pittsburgh that is being demolished. Approximately 2,500 tons of concrete, 350 tons of steel and 9 tons of aluminum window frames will be salvaged from the site.

Although the process will take longer than it would have if the building had been demolished with traditional methods — approximately two months in the PNC project– officials estimate recycling materials will save $200,000 in dumping fees. PNC expects that out of the 11,000 tons of waste from the demolition, it will be able to recycle 8,000 tons of material. After the demolition and recycling process is complete, PNC plans on using the site, which is adjacent to the company’s corporate office, for a park.

During the recent deconstruction of a tower at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich., construction crews had to carefully dismantle the building piece by piece over a four-month period. Sixteen crews were specially trained for the project, which required taking down the interior and exterior walls from inside the building, removing the debris and then trucking it offsite. The majority of the debris from the site was recycled, including 2,500 tons of structural steel and 14,000 tons of concrete. In all, less than 20 percent of the building’s remains were taken to a landfill.

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit research organization based in Minneapolis, some cities in the United States have passed ordinances that require construction crews to recycle debris from renovations or demolition projects. One of those towns, Atherton, Calif., requires that 50 percent of the debris from demolition be recycled in some way.

Some companies have found a unique niche in recycling building materials. Construction Junction, a non-profit construction material store in Pittsburgh, specializes in used and surplus building materials, including thousands of doors, windows and cabinets.