Going Greener

Departments - Editor's Focus

November 11, 2013

Kristin Smith


I remember sitting at my desk this same time a year ago writing about none other than LEED v4. The newest version of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program was to have taken effect last year, but in light of the level of feedback the organization received from thousands of entities, it instead opened up more comment periods and delayed voting on the new version.

The USGBC also initiated a beta test of LEED v4, intended to improve aspects of the program, in which more than 100 projects have participated. Fast-forward to November 2013, and the USGBC is getting ready to adopt what one LEED Accredited Professional referred to in the magazine last June as “kind of a shake-up.”

Indeed, the new version of LEED will shake things up for general contractors, demolition crews and C&D recyclers who now have to focus on not only the weight of what is being recycled but also target nonstructural materials for diversion.

According to the USGBC website, www.usgbc.org, applicants will have to produce a final report detailing all major waste streams generated, including disposal and diversion rates. After further describing the requirement, the website description for the Material & Resources Prerequisite (MRp2 on the scorecard) reads in bold letters, “Alternative daily cover (ADC) does not qualify as material diverted from disposal.”

This is one area that has been a source of controversy for the C&D recycling industry even before the USGBC decided to take a stance on the material. Common sense might tell you that if a material is used as cover at a landfill, then that material was not diverted from a landfill and, therefore, should not be included in a reported recycling rate. However, one also could argue validly that using the fines from a C&D recycling facility as ADC also prevents virgin dirt from being used in its place. You can read more about what the industry has to say about the new LEED requirement around ADC in the article, “Landfill Cover-Up,” on page 22.

For the USGBC, being “green” certainly means more than recycling concrete and steel, but it is the value of those high-volume commodities that make recycling a worthwhile endeavor for demolition firms. It also is the reason millions of tons of debris are kept out of landfills each year.

If LEED projects now put an emphasis on recycling additional materials, such as drywall or carpet, there may be some kicking and screaming at first as the industry adjusts to the new set of rules. But, as a wise person once told me, “Change is never easy, even if it is for the better.”

Perhaps LEED v4 will cause C&D recyclers to more readily accept additional materials and find new end markets for nontraditional debris coming into their facilities. It will be those firms that learn to adapt to the new environment and innovate that will come out ahead.