May 17, 2011 – Waste from construction sites represents a significant portion of landfill content. To discourage this practice, “green” building systems reward builders for recycling wood construction waste. Daniel Hindman, associate professor of wood science and forest products, and Philip Araman, research team leader at the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station, initiated a project with Green Valley Builders in Blacksburg, an EarthCraft House certified builder, to quantify the construction waste generated at the company’s Mount Tabor Meadows housing development and to explore options for reusing and recycling it.
Green Valley Builders and the Forest Service each purchased 28-foot trailers to store and transport the excess building materials to the university for analysis. Usable sizes of oriented strand board (OSB) were selected and cut into various-sized sections, which can be used as pallet repair parts, stair risers and treads, shelving, and flooring and wall sheathing. “While some of the OSB material is being used for a variety of demonstration projects at the college’s Brooks Forest Products Center, the majority of it has been donated to local Habitat for Humanity ReStores,” Araman said. Untreated lumber waste was ground into mulch at the Montgomery County Solid Waste Authority Recycling Center. The researchers are searching for an industrial partner so that preservative pressure treated lumber recovered from the site can be finger jointed back together for use as sill plates in future construction projects.
“This collaboration represents a blend of industrial and academic research that could not have been accomplished by either party alone,” Hindman remarked. The researchers have taken over two dozen groups to tour the Mount Tabor Meadows development over the last two years, giving students the opportunity to view green building practices firsthand. The collection and recycling of the sheathing and lumber has provided Green Valley Builders with points in the EarthCraft House system while providing data on construction waste generation in the building process, which is not well documented. The researchers are now planning to work with the builder on the next step of the project — implementing steps in the construction process to reduce the amount of waste generated.