We’ve certainly all been witness to heated debates, differences of opinion, advocates for change and proponents of the status quo over the past several months. Perhaps you can even identify with one of those roles. The outcome of the elections (which have not been determined at the time I am writing this) will certainly have an effect on the conditions in which you will have to operate over the next several months or several years. While the elections may be over as you are reading this, it is not yet time to take off your campaigning hat just yet.
There is yet another vote on the horizon that could have serious implications for thousands of architects, general contractors, builders, engineers, recyclers and demolition contractors for years to come.
In June of this year, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) decided to delay member voting on the newest version of its LEED green building rating system. LEED 2012 was to have launched at the Greenbuild Conference in San Francisco taking place in November, but instead the now renamed LEED v4 has entered a fifth public comment period, which began Oct. 2 and runs through Dec. 10, 2012. There are several credits open for comment in the Material & Resources section of the proposed new LEED Scorecard that will directly affect how building materials are used and recycled.
On its website, www.usgbc.org, the USGBC says since the opening of the first public comment period, it has received more than 21,500 comments and recommendations.
In addition to the delay and additional public comment period, the USGBC will initiate a beta test of LEED v4. According to the USGBC website, the goal of the beta test, in direct response to market demand, is to have project teams across market sectors engage with a pre-ballot version of LEED v4 “to help USGBC improve aspects of the LEED v4 program, identify challenges with proposed documentation and areas in need of additional education development.”
If the sentiments of C&D recyclers voiced during the C&D Recycling Forum in Long Beach, Calif., in September are representative of the industry, then it is clear, the industry needs to step forward.
“We really made a big difference last time,” Jason Haus of Dem-Con Companies LLC, Shakopee, Minn., told attendees referring to the comment period that took place prior to the 2009 LEED Scorecard being adopted.
The USGBC also is encouraging stakeholders take the opportunity to comment. “We need your voice now during the public comment period, through beta and during the ballot,” the USGBC website urges. So while your political campaigning might be over, you can still let your voice be heard to the U.S. Green Building Council.
A cross the supply chain, the adoption of asphalt shingle recycling continues to have significant momentum across the country. As an industry leader advancing this movement, the Owens Corning™ Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program has active locations in more than 75 markets nationwide making it accessible to more than 55 percent of the U.S. population. This significant market expansion represents a valuable opportunity for shingle recyclers and customers to grow their business while helping to benefit the environment.
Responsible for driving growth of shingle recycling to more than half the population, the Owens Corning™ Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program centers on engaging homeowners, educating contractors and connecting with recyclers to make shingle recycling a convenient, cost-effective and differentiating solution.
A pivotal element behind the success of shingle recycling has been connecting contractors with reliable, reputable companies who deliver dedicated, convenient drop-off centers that will recycle and process shingle tear-offs operated and divert resources away from landfills. To help facilitate the connection between contractors and participation recyclers, Owens Corning Roofing has made several tools available for contractors who join the Owens Corning™ Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program.
“As part of our commitment to making shingle recycling convenient and cost effective for all parties in the supply chain, we are a leader in the industry in bringing online solutions and alliances to help connect recycling centers with their customers,” says Barry Hornbacher, Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt shingle recycling business leader.
To help drive interested customers to easily find recyclers who provide shingle recycling services in active markets, Owens Corning Roofing has an alliance with Earth911®.com to make the Earth911 Recycling Directory available to participating contractors. In addition, there also is a toll-free 1-800-CLEANUP hotline, and a free iRecycle app for Android and iOS mobile devices to locate an expanded list of local recyclers in a customer’s area. This is one of the valuable tools that shingle recyclers can use as part of the program to connect with their customers.
Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt also offers incentives to recycle as part of the Owens Corning™ Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program. In addition to offering a five to 10 percent discount on the recycling fee at participating locations, Preferred Contractors who take the Owens Corning™ Roofing Shingle Recycling Pledge receive leads from interested homeowners, marketing materials and a “Preferred Shingle Recycler” status on www.roofing.owenscorning.com, further increasing their visibility among homeowners.
To help continue generating consumer interest, Owens Corning™ Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program recently launched a homeowner pledge available at www.roofing.owenscorning.com to encourage homeowners to pledge to use a contractor who will recycle their old shingles when the time is right to replace their roof. Additionally, as homeowners take the pledge, contractors receive notifications about potential leads in their area.
Cincinnati roofer Nick Sabino has experienced firsthand the benefits of tapping into a recycling program. Implementing a recycling program for his business, Deer Park Roofing Inc. in 2010, has helped establish his company as a trusted roofing advisor and provided Sabino with the initiative to add insulation and energy efficiency solutions for customers. Deer Park Roofing has grown to be one of the area’s strongest performing roofing companies.
Sabino’s participation in the local shingle recycling program also benefits the community. To date, more than 500 tons of shingles from Deer Park Roofing have been recycled for use in paving and repairing local roads—equivalent to 500 barrels of oil, or enough fuel to run an average car for more than 460,000 miles.
For Rodney Standifer of ABC Roofing Co. Inc., in Indianapolis, participating in a recycling program proved to be a point of differentiation that set his business apart from the competition. Appealing to customers who actively recycle, Standifer said his business also attracts new customers who are intrigued by a sustainable solution for their old roof. Moreover, customer support from the recycling program has generated referrals in neighboring communities.
“Offering a shingle recycling program to the community is a win-win situation. Homeowners appreciate knowing the old roof gets a second life,” Standifer says. “It also gives us a competitive edge.”
Just the beginning
All of the combined efforts to connect recyclers with customers and educate consumers are ultimately about diverting the tear-off materials from landfills and directing the valuable material such as asphalt and aggregate into road construction, repair or maintenance applications, the current largest user of post-consumer shingles.
Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculations, recycling the shingles from one roof is comparable to what one household produces in waste in a year. It also has been calculated that every ton of recycled shingles contains the equivalent to one barrel of oil in the form of asphalt. Considering that asphalt roofing shingles represent 80 percent of the marketplace and approximately 10 million tons of asphalt shingles are torn off roofs during repair and replacement jobs annually, shingle recycling is having a sustainable impact.
In fact, since the program inception in 2009 the Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt Shingle Recycling Program has recycled more than 185,000 tons of asphalt shingles, the equivalent of saving 185,000 barrels of oil**.
Fortunately, there are sustainable end-of-life recycling options to use the valuable materials from torn-off asphalt shingles. Increasingly across the U.S., state-level Department of Transportation offices are specifying recycled asphalt shingles can be used in state funded projects. As a result, paving contractors are willing to use a mix design with shingles in those specified states. Paving contractors in states without a specification can use the material in private and commercial jobs.
In addition to providing an alternative to disposing of old shingles, roof recycling also typically costs at least 20 percent* less than landfill costs in most markets, making it a smart savings opportunity and cost-effective alternative to landfill disposal. The practice of properly removing and recycling of tear-off asphalt shingles can also enable contractors to earn additional credits under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating program and other similar certification programs for their building-owner customers.
“At Owens Corning, we are constantly seeking solutions that carry economic, environmental and social benefits. The shingle recycling program is the perfect example of carefully considered product life-cycle management, from conception of design and manufacture to durable service and end-of-life recycling,” says Owens Corning Chief Sustainability Officer, Frank O’Brien-Bernini. “As part of Owens Corning’s commitment to safeguarding, sustaining and improving the environment for the benefit of current and future generations, we are proud to be the first roofing manufacturer that helped create an infrastructure to increase shingle recycling and material re-use across the country.”
Asphalt shingle recycling represents an important contribution to sustainability in construction practices as well as green building objectives. It is an example of a sustainable building solution that has continued to gain traction and deliver measurable results. As it continues to gain support across the industry, more roofing recyclers and their customers will reap the business benefits.
* Based on Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt LLC recycling locations survey on recycling costs in eight U.S. markets, July 2012
** Based on Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt LLC calculation using average composition of shingles, August 2012
This story was submitted by Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt LLC, Toledo, Ohio.
Will Dellinger, chief executive and co-owner of JW Demolition, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., has always been a diehard supporter of sustainability. The company was founded in 2007, with a commitment to completing every demolition project in the most environmentally friendly way. In the demolition business since 2001 when he began tearing down and recycling materials from out-of-date textile mills, Dellinger brought on his brother-in-law, Tony Pizzo, as co-owner and company president, to help run JW Demolition in 2008. In the three years that followed, business increased by 700 percent; and JW Demolition is today viewed as one of the most progressive green demolition contractors in the country.
“I attribute our growth to experience and working hard to understand what is sustainably possible in the business of demolition,” Dellinger says. “A lot of our success can be attributed to research and making prudent equipment purchase decisions. We have worked hard to get a healthy share of the demolition market, and have been successful because people recognize our commitment to doing what’s right.”
Wrecking Ball Retires
Much of the company’s success is the result of reinvestment in the processing tools that are the backbone of their business. Last summer, JW Demolition purchased several pieces of new equipment, including a Vermeer HG6000TX horizontal grinder and four hybrid excavators; primarily because of the eco-friendly technology and efficient operation of the new machinery. At a time when many facets of the economy were still very tight and uncertain, the JW Demolition duo viewed these purchases as a no-brainer.
Wood Pellets On the Rise
A recent addition of the North American Wood Fiber Review reports the United States has surpassed Canada in the amount of wood pellets it exports, making it the largest exporter of the fuel in the world. The U.S. is forecast to increase exports of wood pellets from 1.5 million tons in 2012 to 5.7 million tons in 2015 according to the publication.
In the southern U.S, pellet export volumes rose 13 percent in the second quarter of 2012 over the previous quarter, according to the review.
Meanwhile, Atlanta-based wood pellet producer, Enova Energy Group LLC, has announced plans to build three wood pellet projects to produce renewable fuel for export to Europe.
The facilities will be built in Georgia and South Carolina. Each of the facilities are expected to produce 450,000 metric tons per year of pellets. The pellets will be exported out of Savannah, Ga., to various consumers in the European Union under long-term contracts.
Zach Steele, CEO of Enova, says, “As demand for biomass has grown in Europe, Enova is ideally situated to take advantage of the vast resources of sustainable forests being grown throughout the Piedmont Region of the southeastern U.S. to help Europe meet its demand to reduce its carbon footprint.”
“To our way of thinking, and given the opportunities we saw in our trade territory, the decision to invest in more efficient and sustainable producing equipment make solid economic sense,” Dellinger says. “We are fully equipped as a mobile recycling yard, and can process everything from the wood to the steel. That is how our company has grown; by reinvestment in equipment and training our employees.”
During a period when most construction companies were downsizing, JW Demolition was hiring and training new employees. Today, the company’s work force stands at 95 strong and growing.
According to Dellinger, commercial building demolition has changed dramatically since the days of cranes and wrecking balls. The former approach was not only highly inefficient, but resulted in producing demolished materials in a form that was often unsuitable for recycling. Equipment innovations have since changed that. Today, the implements used most often in building deconstruction are excavators and grinders which are highly efficient and productive.
Defining their operation as a mobile recycling yard offers insights into why Pizzo and Dellinger selected the HG6000TX horizontal grinder. Equipped with 24-inch double-grouser track pads, the HG6000TX grinder is capable of self-propelling into the most remote job sites. High ground clearance and sealed rollers help keep material from building up in the track system, while a wireless remote allows the grinder to be operated from up to 300 feet away. And the exclusive Vermeer SmartGrind feed system automatically controls the rate of feeding raw material based on engine rpm levels, helping increase grinding efficiency and maximize fuel usage.
Closing the Loop
The steel industry has been actively recycling for more than 150 years, in large part because it is economically advantageous. It is cheaper to recycle steel than to mine iron ore and manipulate it through the production process to form new steel. And now, with the demand for recycled wood and biomass experiencing a dramatic increase, wood processing has become a lucrative component of JW Demolition’s business.
“The Vermeer grinder was the last piece of the puzzle,” Pizzo says. “We now we have a closed loop recycling/manufacturing process for demolishing large scale facilities. Before we bought the grinder, we hauled wood waste material to landfills. With the Vermeer grinder we’re able to produce a new product that is used for boiler fuel and in commercial and residential landscape applications. The grinder has allowed us to take what previously was destined for the landfill and produce a new product that has value.”
Pizzo calculates that upwards of 97 percent of the materials produced from many commercial structures demolished by JW Demolition can now be recycled. “In addition to wood and steel, we also recycle and manufacture concrete and asphalt,” he says. “Where we used to be recycling 80 to 85 percent of the material on site, now 95 to 97 percent of a demolished structure gets recycled.”
All the asbestos-containing material removed from a structure by the company goes to a specified landfill that receives it as hazardous waste and is not recycled. Pizzo explains that asbestos still makes up a small percentage of the waste from any project.
Aside from their commitment to recycling as much discarded demolition material as possible, the principals at JW Demolition have also been motivated by economics. Pizzo explains that no longer having to spend upwards of half a million dollars in landfill fees annually has made a dramatic improvement to the company’s bottom line; positive environmental impacts notwithstanding.
“Spending the amount of money we were on landfill fees — the majority being wood waste that really doesn’t need to end up in a landfill — was adversely affecting our profitability,” Pizzo says. “The added benefit is that we reduce emissions by not having to haul material up and down the road to a landfill. There comes a point when the pendulum swings and it makes economic sense to do something. We reached that point when we invested in the Vermeer grinder.”
The uniqueness of the wood waste being recycled by the company is very important. The majority is aged material with a relatively low moisture content that is well suited for biomass boilers.
“We are manufacturing new product from what was formerly waste material,” Pizzo says. “We recycle between 4 and 5 million board feet annually. A percentage of it is not reusable, so the wood chips we manufacture from this waste goes to the biomass industry and to landscaping companies. Biomass power production is still in its infancy. It’s a green power source with great potential but still under refinement. Eventually everything is going to be recycled.”
For now, JW Demolition is keeping ahead of what Pizzo defines as the new energy curve.
“There’s a very positive refinement in energy production underway,” Pizzo says. “Better management of our natural resources is the foundation. Biomass facilities exist, but are not yet widespread. We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve. We know we can find users for the material. The greatest obstacle at this point is locating biomass energy facilities that are within geographic proximity to demolition sites that make it cost-effective to transport. As more of these facilities come online, the more cost-efficient the wood waste recycling business will become. We’re definitely heading in the right direction.”
The article was submitted by Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa, on behalf of Vermeer, Pella, Iowa.
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.”
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, www.CDRecycler.com/Forum.
To see more photos from the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum, visit www.CDRecycler.com/2012-cd-recycling-forum-photo-gallery.aspx
Visit www.CDRecycler.com/2012-cd-recycling-forum-wrapup-video.aspx to watch a video from the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum.
There is much to be said about the value of a solid working relationship between an equipment user and his dealer or supplier. Truly committed equipment dealer will do more than just answer a call or provide spare parts when needed. They will understand—in many cases, even anticipate—their customer’s needs. They will get actively involved with their customer’s business, looking for ways in which they can play a role in making it better. They will act as a conduit, if necessary, between the customer and the equipment manufacturer when concerns need to be voiced or a suggestion for a design change made. They will help that customer explore new markets for their products or make existing ones better and more profitable. And mostly, they will appreciate the fact that their customer’s success ultimately means success for everyone involved. Conversely, the customer has to have a high level of confidence in those relationships to help make that happen.
Nowhere is such a relationship more evident than the one that exists between Covey Tree, its equipment supplier, L.C. Whitford, its dealer representative Bob Miller, and its equipment manufacturer, Morbark. Because each party understands the role they play and the particular expertise they bring to bear, Covey has recently undergone a dramatic change in its business focus. As a result, the possibility for future growth—and additional equipment purchases—looms very large. A win-win for all involved if ever there was one.
Change in Direction
Started in 1991 as a professional residential and commercial tree service company, Covey Tree grew its business over the years to include right-of-way contracts with divisions of the Western New York Dept. of Transportation (NY DOT) as well as with more than 40 municipalities throughout the area. In 2010, when an opportunity arose to purchase an existing chipping operation and add a new dimension to the business, they did so, based on equal parts instinct and vision.
“Because our chipping operation came with a Morbark 50-48 chipper, we also reached out to Bob Miller, the dealer rep from L.C. Whitford who originally sold the unit and have valued his input ever since,” says Matt Ekstrom, Covey Tree’s sales manager. “That’s not to say we hadn’t done our homework; we actually had about a year’s worth of research under our belts at this time. But we wanted to do it right and knew what a valued resource Bob could be, so we’ve worked hard to keep him in the loop and it’s really helped us.”
Despite having some expertise in chipping, Covey Tree knew it had its work cut out for it, citing the seismic shift that’s taken place in the chipping market. Years ago, according to company founder and owner, Kevin Covey, a landowner with high-dollar trees on his property would pay a company like his to come in and cull out the aspen and poplar.
“Today, things have been turned around 180 degrees to where we are now paying them for the right to come in and cut,” he says. “But the market for fiber has undergone some serious changes which have made that happen. We simply have to adjust to those changes.”
The changes to which Covey refers have been in the making for some time now, as wood fiber in all dimensions, sizes and colors grows in popularity and usage. Where once only large facilities could or would invest in biomass, smaller ones are now seeing the feasibility of making a change. Products which were once solely made from virgin timber are now being molded from pressed wood fiber. Even a product as innocuous as wood mulch, is, in many cases, becoming a specialized commodity. Meeting those newfound needs takes a company geared up for the challenges it presents, and Covey Tree meets those demands nicely, says Bob Miller.
“People have always asked for chips and, for the most part, chips have always been a byproduct of the logging operation,” he says. “But, for a number of reasons, that seems to be changing today. Most important of those is the fact that, as biofuel, pellets and other products grow in popularity, there is a much greater demand for chips and less demand for the things that initially made them a byproduct. What that means is companies like Covey’s who, in the past, could have simply blown chips into a van and called it a day, now have a wealth of options available to them for new products, new customers, and new markets. In a sense, they’ve become a custom chip manufacturer.”
Using what they have
And that’s where the relationship between Covey, L.C. Whitford and Morbark has paid dividends. Getting the right machine for the application, making sure it is outfitted correctly, seeing what ancillary equipment might improve the process even further, and so on, have all been made easier. Covey Tree, for example, has a customer that demands a specialized chip and working with Bob Miller and Morbark now has a machine which is dedicated solely to that customer.
“But that particular product is a log-only chip,” Ekstrom says, “meaning we are cutting down a tree and using only the bottom one-third of it. Our whole goal has always been centered around sustainability, so it is up to us to ensure that we have markets for the remaining two-thirds: the twigs, the leaves and so on. We are working hard to make that happen and Bob is as committed as any of us to seeing that through.”
Year-Round Production Goal
Fortunately for them, markets for new products seem to appear almost daily, as technology evolves and more and more people see trees as an excellent resource. It also doesn’t hurt that Covey Tree is located in an area surrounded by pellet mills and potential biomass customers. Nevertheless, their market plan stresses product diversity.
“In the last year we learned that having as many products as possible would be key, so that, depending upon the time of the year, we have a product that is in demand,” Covey says. “The flake and particle board market, which goes hand-in-hand with the housing industry, essentially shuts down for winter out here. Co-fired biomass customers can flip the switch whenever they want, based on pricing. Straight biomass customers often need product 24/7. Then, of course, there is the mulch market where it is three months feast and nine months inventory. The bottom line is, some customers are always out there, and they are often demanding a very specific product which I feel we are well-suited to providing.”
How specific that product can be sometimes borders on the unbelievable. Ekstrom says they are currently working with a customer who wants them to get a specific breed of tree, in a very particular color, and they want it reduced to a very specific size. “As challenging as that sounds, that type of customer—and others like them—will ultimately drive our success,” he says. “We are lucky to have aligned ourselves with companies like L.C. Whitford and Morbark who share our vision for where the industry is headed. Morbark has been excellent in working with us to customize our machines to better meet our particular needs. They’ve played a huge role in our success to date. I know for a fact that other manufacturers would not be so accommodating.”
Maintaining the resource
Getting to a point where they will be able to meet everyone’s needs and sustain steady growth will take a concerted effort and demand a huge supply of timber. Ekstrom says the general impression people get when they learn about an operation of that size is a real fear of overtaxing the timber supply.
“And we understand that,” he says. “Coming from a tree-service background, sustainability is very important to us; the last thing we want to do is deplete the resource upon which we rely. However, a recent 142-page feasibility study from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) shows that, as of 2010, tree growth was outpacing cutting in the state by about 60 percent. This, despite all the new focus on biomass, all the new demands for fiber-based products and so on. That’s great news and shows that the efforts of both forestry professionals and companies like ours who focus on replanting have been effective.”
In keeping with its focus on strategic expansion, Covey Tree recently acquired the shuttered Ellington Hardwood sawmill in Frewsburg, N.Y., which it hopes to one day reopen and bring more employment to the area.
Kevin Covey says he has been blessed with a great team of people (all locals) who make up his company and sees the growth of his company as good not just for the principals and key players but for everyone involved.
“Our development has really come about in steps,” he says. “When we first got the Morbark chippers we knew we were going to make specialized chips for several custom applications, but in order to keep up with the chipper, we had to invest in a harvesting crew. In order to move the product fast enough, we had to invest in a trucking company. In order to keep all three of those groups working, we had to make sure we had outlets available for the custom products.
Morbark’s sales tag is “Equipment that creates opportunities for success.” Covey Tree is that tagline at work. There used to be 15 full-time people employed at Ellington Hardwood and they are all working again for Covey doing everything from administrative work to mechanics to driving to harvesting to equipment operation.
“And, in addition to those, we have a dozen cut and skid crews with two men per crew,” he says. “So it is not just opportunities for us; it is opportunities for everyone involved in our business, opportunities for the local economy. We’ve really only been in business for a year and I think we can all be proud of what we’ve accomplished in that time and excited about what lies ahead.”
This story was submitted on behalf of Morbark Inc., Winn, Mich.