Recycled building materials on the rise

November 2004 » Feature Articles
The building industry is headed down a greener path. Companies now are looking at the whole picture when developing projects, including the environmental impacts of their decisions.

By Tori Durliat

The building industry is headed down a greener path. Companies now are looking at the whole picture when developing projects, including the environmental impacts of their decisions. Many factors have aligned to make way for this green movement.

For example, the following are now available: new technologies to improve products and processing techniques, grant programs to provide financial assistance to organizations, and third-party facilities to ensure quality control. Combined with factors such as rising oil prices and increasing popularity of consumer and industrial recycling programs, green options are being manufactured, specified, and purchased in the construction industry.

For example, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) offers a Market Development Grant program to boost market development, to increase the use of recycled materials, and to make recycled products. It also created a Memorandum of Understanding with its Division of Engineering to stimulate the use of recycled-content materials into statefunded building projects.

"Increased development of standards is a factor that’s going to affect the construction industry and increase the use of recycledcontent products," said Patricia A. Raynak, the administrator of the research, industry, and markets section of the ODNR.

Manufacturers are interested in recycling materials for various reasons, including the environmental benefits, potential cost savings, and economic benefits to communities by supporting recycling programs. "Many times, the recycled-content material or product has a lower maintenance cost or a longer life than the material or product made with virgin feedstock," said Raynak. "That saves the organization in the long run. And by purchasing recycled-content materials, the organization is ultimately providing a market for recyclables."

However, there are myths about the quality of recycled products, Raynak explains, that stem back to World War II when, because of material shortages, some products were made by using scrap materials. But industry has come a long way since then because of new technological processes and quality control testing.

Organizations are placing importance on environmental benefits, plus they are putting their environmental ethics into action by using more recycled-content materials. Such initiatives are sometimes in conjunction with goals to attain the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification on a project. LEED is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It offers incentives for incorporating green building practices, such as using recycled building materials.

An educational facility in Licking County, Ohio, is applying for a LEED Certified Silver rating for a combination addition and renovation project. "The site has a lot of different green attributes to it and, through the LEED process, there is a large portion of recycled-content material needed," said Rick Orr, the facilities manager of the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County (C-TEC).

The entire building, including buried infrastructure, has to meet an established percentage of recycled-material content, as required by LEED.

One of the products contributing to the LEED requirements is Hancor, Inc.’s EcoFirst‚ pipe, a dual-wall, corrugated, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) stormwater drainage pipe engineered with a minimum of 50 percent recycled resin. By applying a new, patent-pending molecular enhancement technology, EcoFirst is the only HDPE drainage pipe engineered from recycled resin that is capable of meeting American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) M294 Type S structural and material performance requirements, with the exception that it’s made from recycled material. With this new technology, EcoFirst can meet all AASHTO performance levels, as well as achieve higher stress crack resistance standards than traditionally produced HDPE pipe made with recycled resins. (Stress crack resistance is assessed using the Notched Constant Ligament Stress test.) Why did Hancor develop a pipe from recycled materials? "It was a product that our customers asked for," said Bill Altermatt, vice president of sales and marketing for Hancor.

"Engineers wanted a green pipe that used recycled materials, and EcoFirst delivers the ideal environmental solution with sound engineering principles." The product was released in 2003 after many years of research and development.

To assure engineers, contractors, and owners that product quality is consistent with the manufacturer’s claim, EcoFirst pipe is thirdparty certified through Hauser Laboratories’ Green Performance program. The Green Performance mark may only be applied after a technically demanding product and process qualification, in conjunction with an ongoing program of audits, inspections, and tests.

Additionally, Hancor, a member of the U.S.

Green Building Council, developed a quality control system that includes a pre-qualification program for recycled material suppliers, continuous material testing of all received recycled material streams, and finished product testing.

"Recycled polyethyleve resins have been subjected to a previous processing history and are purchased from off-plant sources," explained Altermatt. "The key to responsible use of recycled polyethylene resins is performance requirements and management of material properties." Architects, engineers, and developers seeking LEED Certification Credits are choosing recycled building materials, such as EcoFirst, over conventionally produced materials. "It’s one of many contributors to making more environmentally sensitive materials choices," said John Boecker, director of High Performance Green Design at L.

Robert Kimball & Associates, and a LEED accredited professional. His firm assisted the C-TEC team with its green building project goals. The team desired a minimum of 10 percent of the costs of all materials to represent recycledcontent, as per LEED requirements.

"This certification is very significant for the State of Ohio, as C-TEC will be the first [building] to have registered in the state and likely will be the first one in terms of a school to achieve LEED Certification in Ohio," said Boecker. "The green building movement has really begun to penetrate the educational sector.

In fact, schools represent nearly 10 percent of all registered LEED projects across the country." "LEED was designed and created explicitly to transform the marketplace," said Boecker.

Using recycled building materials is only one way material choices can impact building projects.

Boecker explained that the industry is beginning to look at "cradle-to-grave" environmental impacts, which account for products’ effects on water and air pollution, human toxicity, and embodied energy (which is the amount of energy it takes to create a product, beginning with mining the raw materials and ending with disposal). Additionally, products’ future impacts as solid waste are assessed.

"The U.S. Green Building Council is currently considering moving toward life cycle assessment (LCA) materials analysis for LEED," said Boecker. "This will have an even greater impact on materials manufacturing and selection because LCA really tells us the whole story." So take a step back and look at projects from a different perspective, and not at just this point in time. Eventually, all buildings exceed their useful life and are demolished. In North America today, construction waste and demolition debris comprise approximately 25 percent to 45 percent of the waste stream, according to the Construction Materials Recycling Association.

Boecker advised, "Look at selecting materials that are recyclable as well, so that demolished components are not disposed in landfills, but instead can become resources for future construction. It’s really about thinking more holistically."

Tori Durliat is the marketing communications manager for Hancor, Inc. She can be reached at 800-537-9520 or via e-mail at tdurliat@hancor.com.


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