Many Viewpoints

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Attendees of the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum heard several perspectives on the C&D recycling and demolition industries.


From architects to demolition contractors to building products manufacturers and state and local officials, the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum had no shortage of perspectives on the C&D recycling and demolition industries. More than 100 people from all over the United States and Canada met in Long Beach, Calif., in late September for three days of educational sessions covering topics as wide ranging as mechanical sorting innovations to alternative energy.

After two consecutive years of holding the conference in the Baltimore, Md., area, organizers decided to bring the event to the West Coast to give C&D recyclers and demolition contractors an opportunity to see what other efforts are being done nationally in C&D recycling.

“I think [having the C&D Forum on the West Coast] is awesome because this side of the country has a whole different scenario. It’s a whole different way of doing business,” said Carol Parker, city of Los Angeles, construction and demolition waste recycling program manager. “There is a whole environment that is different from the East Coast, so I’m glad you are out here.”

Parker was a speaker at the forum. She valued the networking opportunities that were available in the exhibit hall throughout the three-day conference. “I work with our construction demolition waste recycling program and a good part of what I do has to be getting information out to the public, and a forum like this is perfect,” she said. “I can talk to people. I can let them know what the city of L.A. is doing and why we’re doing it, and they can get back to me with whatever their opinions are on what we are doing.”

Several Perspectives
According to presenters at the recently concluded C&D Recycling Forum, the pressure is on for architects and general contractors to incorporate green building practices into their projects. Efforts being made decrease waste generation, reuse materials and divert debris have been driven largely by the growth in sustainability programs, and it is having an impact on demolition contractors and C&D recyclers.

Attendees of the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum heard several different perspectives on the subject of sustainability and how it is ultimately driving the C&D recycling industry.

Shellie Collier, president of architecture firm Homage Design, Los Angeles, laid the groundwork of the keynote session by telling attendees how designers and architects can reduce, reuse and recycle in their project designs and waste management plans.

“Be considerate during the design phase so you can reduce the amount of wood and drywall wasted in a project,” said Collier. She explained how advanced framing can cut down on the amount of wood used in construction.

She suggested designing with a 24-foot OC (output compare) module Advantages, which include the use of less lumber, less labor to build and less thermal bridging that allows for more wall insulation. She warned that while this technique may make more efficient use of materials, it may drive up design and engineering costs.

Panelizing and prefabrication are other techniques that can reduce waste. Collier suggested deconstruction of buildings to salvage components for reuse.

Ted van der Linden, director of sustainability, DPR Construction, San Francisco, discussed his firm’s transition toward becoming a leader in green building. According to van der Linden, the company, the 24th largest general contractor in the United States, has experienced significant growth in green projects over the last eight years from 1 percent of its overall business in 2004 to now trending to more than 80 percent of its projects today. In 2011, 75 percent of DPR’s project were considered “green” generating $3 billion in sales.

Brian DiFatta, national business development manager of Waste Management Sustainability Services, Windsor, Conn., outlined the footprint of parent company, Houston-based Waste Management (WM).

“Our customers rely on us to keep them in compliance,” said DiFatta. “Our process includes identifying and managing individual materials as needed for projects to meet diversion goals and municipal requirements.”

He said WM focuses on three core principles:

  • Know more about your customer
  • Extract more value from material
  • Innovate and continuously improve

He added that WM “understands that sustainability means continuous improvements.”

He also outlined what he calls the “Five Forces Driving Corporate Sustainability Management:”

  • brand competition;
  • risk disclosure;
  • regulatory compliance;
  • innovation; and
  • good business.

He noted, “It’s got to be practical if it is going to be sustainable.”

A Defferent World

From a high rise building in France to a massive fuel bunker in Scotland, performing demolition work in Europe poses some interesting challenges. Attendees at the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum had the opportunity to hear how demolition contractors have approached these projects using unconventional methods.

Stefano Panseri, managing director, Despe Srl, Italy, showed how a new method for deconstruction of skyscrapers called the TopDownWay successfully brought down a skyscraper in Lyon, France.

Panseri described how the TopDownWay seals the structure to be demolished, keeping the stripped out material and demolition debris inside. The system is installed on the top three stories of the skyscraper and moves down, eventually taking down the entire structure.

“With this system, the machine works on three stories of the skyscraper at a time, performing a number of different operations simultaneously: the destruction of the facades and their coverings, the removal of the windows, the demolition of and the contaminant of the rubble,” Panseri described. “As the work proceeds, the platform descends to the next level by means of controlled-mode operations.”

Despe submitted a proposal to demolish the Tour Uap building in Lyon, France. The building, while small by U.S. standards, was extremely large by European standards including two-below-ground stories, a three-story parking garage, 17 office building stories and a technical story, Panseri said.

“If we were to be awarded the tender contract, we had to come up with an idea to demolish the building quicker whilst meeting all the contractor’s requirements,” Panseri said. The requirements included no dust, no noise, no vibration and no disturbance in the district. TopDownWay was the winning proposal. Panseri calls the method “a complete rethink of the philosophy of demolition.”

Panseri said the demolition occurred at a rate of two stories per week and achieved a recycling rate of 95 percent. “As witnessed by the operators and city council representatives, the Uap tower disappeared quietly in less than four months.”

David Sinclair of Safedem Limited, based in Dundee, U.K. is in the middle of one of the largest demolition jobs of his career: a 9.5-acre bunker in Rosyth, Scotland with 8-meter-thick-walls and a 7.5-meter-thick roof all made up of more than 1 million metric tons of reinforced concrete and 2,200 kilometers of reinforcing bar.

“We’ve done a lot of demolition jobs in the past,” Sinclair said, “but this was the mother of them all.”

The bunker was built in two phases. The first phase was completed in 1918. Then in the 1930s, another bunker was built on the outside of the original bunker to reinforce it so it would withstand an attack. The bunker was used to store fuel for ships

When demolition first began, Sinclair recalls, “We weren’t getting very far or going anywhere fast.”

Crews learned that they were able to make more headway if they drilled horizontally rather than vertically. They also used explosives. Using non-explosive props, Sinclair demonstrated to attendees how he created sausage-like explosives that have “nibbled away” at the structure. The explosive devices were created using dynamite and an amoblast, which is a combination of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. He said crews have conducted about 430 explosions like that.

Safedem is in its fifth year of demolition at the site and has approximately two years to go before the demolition will be completed.

“Our saving grace has been the price of scrap,” Sinclair said.

Bill Heffner, president, Agg Rok Materials, Grove City, Ohio, attended the session. “I like the different things that I’ve seen at this conference, not only things that happen in the United States, but also things that are going on overseas,” he remarked. By attending the session Heffner says he realized, “There’s other ways to do things and [to do them] in a very environmentally sensitive way.”

Heffner also observed the forum creates an environment to share information with attendees from out-of-state that aren’t competing for the same business. “It is great to see people from around the United States that you don’t really know. They will tell you things that other people in your state won’t tell you,” he said.

California State of Mind
As much as almost any other state in the country, legislators in California have put laws in place to encourage contractors and haulers to think recycling first and landfilling second.

Officials from two Southern California population centers as well a representative from state agency CalRecycle offered their views on how C&D materials diversion is faring as a result.

The city of Los Angeles’ Parker described that city’s response to the state’s C&D materials landfill diversion target (Assembly Bill 939, AB939).

Parker said the city tried a pilot program mandating waste management plans, but soon discovered that with two employees designated to review them, “When I looked at [doing this for] the whole city with just two people—we can’t do that.”

Instead, the city requires haulers of C&D materials to take their cargoes to one of 13 permitted recycling facilities in or near Los Angeles. Haulers also must be permitted to haul C&D materials.

Penalties for evading this system are considerable, she said. “As a result, we’ve got a lot more haulers thinking about where they take their materials.”

Ken Prue of the San Diego Environmental Services Department described the city of San Diego’s response to AB939, which has taken the form of a deposit ordinance when construction permits are issued.

The contractor seeking a permit fills out a waste diversion plan and pays a deposit based on the scope of the project. According to Prue, if upon completion of the project contractors can prove a 50 percent diversion rate or higher, they receive a full refund. Refunds are also issued on a sliding scale, so a 44.7 percent diversion rate would equate to an 89.4 percent refund.

Speaker Greg Dick of CalRecycle, Sacramento, said the state’s cities and counties have been successfully complying with AB939, with “only two jurisdictions fined so far.”

Dick also gave an overview of statewide product stewardship programs for materials such as carpet and paint. Regarding carpet, Dick said it has been targeted because “it’s bulky and it takes up lots of space.”

He said the national association CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort) “runs the program; the state is just the referee.” The carpet stewardship program is funded by a five cents-per-square yard tax paid by new carpeting purchasers.

Following his presentation, Prue remarked, “It’s really good in that session and also in others just to get the different perspectives from different sides of the industries from the municipalities to the contractors, the demo contractors, the folks that are really involved in the LEED side, it’s really great to see all the different perspectives.”

Prue added, “Our goal is to divert as much as possible and also put it into useful end markets. And so this is an excellent opportunity just to see examples of what others are doing and challenges that others face. It’s just a great learning experience all in all.”

The C&D Recycling Forum was held Sept. 23-25 at the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center, Long Beach, Calif. The annual event is hosted by Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and sponsored by the National Demolition Association, Doylestown, Pa., and the consulting firm Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. (GBB), Fairfax, Va.

Details on the 2013 C&D Recycling Forum will soon be available on the conference website,

The authors are managing editor; and editorial director and associate publisher of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at or

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