Our nation’s landfills are overflowing and we are constantly seeking ways to reduce the amount of waste that needs to go into them. Usually, we are thinking about food waste, plastics, glass and paper. However, one of the largest sources of waste generation is actually construction and demolition waste. Estimates are that between 25 and 40% of the national solid waste stream comes from these activities and very little of it gets recycled.
According to the EPA, in 2003, a staggering 164 million tons of building-related waste was being generated annually. A typical new building project produces nearly 4 pounds of waste per square foot. If you do the math, that means a mid-sized 50,000 square foot office building construction project will produce nearly 100 tons of waste.
A way out of this mess is modular construction, which is an affordable and efficient alternative to traditional construction techniques. Modular buildings are designed and constructed as individual sections referred to as “modules”. The modules are fabricated off-site in manufacturing plants, transported to the construction site, and fitted together to form the new building. Reducing the work performed on-site significantly limits construction waste.
Modular construction promotes efficient use of building materials by assembling the modules under controlled manufacturing conditions. It also reduces material waste associated with theft and weather damage, and permits re-purposing and use of excess materials.
Modular construction is basically a more efficient way to construct buildings. And like in many other things, efficiency is one of the best ways to reduce waste, save energy, and enhance sustainability.
Photo, posted June 3, 2009, courtesy of Seier & Seier via Flickr.
‘Modular Construction’ from Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.