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Reusing and Reducing Construction Wood

Waste: A Waste Audit of Savic Homes Limited,

Kitchener, Ontario

Report Prepared by:

Bojana Savic (20248121) & Maria Legault (20266913)

For Completion of ERS 317

Professor Jim Robinson

Monday, April 25 th , 2011

1

Table of Contents

1.0.

Introduction

4

1.1. Research Question

4

1.2. Study Rationale

 

4

1.3. Relevant Definitions

5

2.0.

Context

7

2.1. Study Boundaries

 

7

2.2. Target Audience

7

2.3. Theoretical Framework

8

3.0.

Literature Review

8

4.0.

Methodology

11

4.1. Site Characteristics

 

11

4.2. Waste Audit Methodology

11

5.0.

Results and Discussion

13

5.1. Waste Audit

Results

13

5.2. Future Steps for Minimizing and Managing Wood Waste

16

6.0.

Conclusions and Recommendations

17

7.0.

References

19

2

List of Tables:

Table 1: Results of Wood Waste Visual Audit, February 2011

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List of Figures:

Figure 1: Categories of Wood Waste used in Audit

13

Figure 2: Image of Framing Waste in Audit, February 2011

14

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1.0. Introduction

1.1. Research Question

Wastes generated from construction activities are emerging as a significant problem in

Canada and worldwide (Osmani, et al. 2006; Kofoworola and Gheewala 2009; Katz and Baum

2011). It is estimated that industrialized countries produce 7.5 million tons of construction waste

per year (Katz and Baum 2011: 353), while in Canada these wastes consume 75% of landfill

space (Kofoworola and Gheewala 2009: 731). The primary question of this research study is:

what methods could be used to decrease or reuse construction wastes in Ontario? Quantifying

the volume of wood waste produced during construction and suggesting improved management

strategies is this study’s goal. Consequently, a waste audit is conducted in Kitchener-Waterloo, a

city with a growing population and thriving construction industry. A case study of Savic Homes

Limited, a local construction company, is used (Regional Municipality of Waterloo, 2002).

1.2. Study Rationale

The construction industry is beginning to realize that, despite the barriers, wood waste must

be reduced in volume (Schachermayer, et al. 2000; Taylor, et al. 2009). It has been estimated

that the construction of an average-sized home can result in about 8,000 pounds of construction

waste (Alterman 2005: 20). Wastes are frequently created from design changes during

construction, unused materials, improper storage methods, and unskilled labour (Schachermayer,

et al. 2000; Osmani, et al. 2006; Katz and Baum 2011). Purchase of virgin materials, as well as

their disposal in landfills, places a high financial burden on construction companies and harms

the environment (Kofoworola and Gheewala 2009). As these unnecessary costs mount, more

research funding is being devoted to the identification of strategies for waste prevention and

reduction (Banias, et al. 2010; Merino, et al. 2010).

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1.3. Relevant Definitions

The key definitions of this research project include waste, construction, and the hierarchy

of wood waste disposal. First, waste in the construction industry can be broadly defined as

surplus material which has no value and generates direct or indirect costs (Yahya and

Boussabaine 2006; Kofoworola and Gheewala 2009; Banias, et al. 2010). More specifically,

construction and demolition (C&D) wastes are the materials generated from building

construction and demolition; examples include concrete, bricks, tiles, ceramics, glass, wood, and

insulation materials (Huang, et al. 2002; Lu and Yuan 2010). The quantity and quality of this

waste typically depends on the type, shape, and use of the building under construction

(Kourmpanis, et al. 2008). These factors, in turn, determine the intensity of environmental

impacts caused by the construction project (Dainty and Brooke 2004).

Second, construction can be defined as the creation of physical infrastructure (Ibrahim, et

al. 2010). The pollution generated by the construction industry is accepted by many stakeholders

as inevitable and even necessary for economic growth (Ibrahim, et al. 2010). However,

management techniques are required when the relevant stakeholders determine that the wastes

involved have unacceptable environmental or social impacts (Tam, et al. 2009). This research

therefore attempts to show that well-managed construction projects can contribute positively to

local social and environmental conditions (Yahya and Boussabaine 2006).

Third, the hierarchy of wood product disposal is reduction, reuse, recycling, composting,

incineration, and landfills; the first three options are considered in-depth here because of their

desirability for solving wood waste problems (Huang, et al. 2002; Harris, et al. 2006). Source

reduction can occur during the design or construction of a building (Lu and Yuan 2010).

However, disposing of wood at landfill sites is cheap and easy, and the competitive nature of

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construction companies makes them hesitant to alter the status quo without sufficient financial

incentives (Merino, et al. 2010; Ortiz, et al. 2010). Therefore, it must be made obvious to

construction companies that well-handled waste minimization efforts can save money and

increase client satisfaction (Ibrahim, et al. 2010; Harris, et al. 2006; Vandecasteele 2011).

Barriers to recycling wood are similar and include its low value, high transportation costs, and

technical difficulties in processing (Daian and Ozarska 2009). Overcoming these issues will

depend on developing new technologies to make recycling more efficient (Harris, et al. 2006).

Reuse is thought to be one of the better solutions for wood waste because of its

economic, social, and environmental benefits (Wojno 1991; Bullen 2007; Taylor, et al. 2009;

Vandecasteele 2011). When a material is put back into use without alteration, despite being near

the end of its life cycle, it is said to be reused (Lu and Yuan 2010). This differs from recovery,

which can also include the generation of energy from materials near the end of their useable life

(Roussat, et al. 2009; Werner, et al. 2010). Reuse cuts back on carbon emissions and demands

on landfill space; the largest barrier against reuse of wood is contamination or destruction of the

material during demolition (Powrie and Dacombe 2006; Essex and Whelan 2010; Li-yin and

Langston 2010). If the quality of the wood is conserved, however, its reuse lessens the need for

virgin resource extraction and the tipping fees paid for disposal (Bossink and Brouwers 1996;

Huang, et al. 2002; Tam, et al. 2009; Banias, et al. 2010). This research study evaluates the

reuse of wood in the Canadian context.

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2.0.Context

2.1. Study Boundaries

This research project was guided by a focus on a specific C&D material, timeframe, and

construction company. Wood materials were investigated because they are produced in high

volumes during the construction process (B. Savic, personal communication, February 2011).

Temporally, the waste audit occurred over a two-week period in March because framing of the

home took place at this time. Framing, one of the most resource-intensive components of

construction, provided a sample of the typical wood waste caused by construction (B. Savic,

personal communication, February 2011). Savic Homes was investigated because of its

connection to one of the student researchers and plans to build a LEED-certified home. Material

reuse and waste diversion are two key components of LEED certification, making this study

valuable to future work by Savic Homes (Da Silva and Ruwanpura 2009).

2.2. Target Audience

This research targets those involved in designing and constructing buildings, with a

particular focus on Savic Homes. In its entirety, the construction industry includes companies

that construct, reconstruct, alter, or maintain buildings (Ibrahim, et al. 2010). This research

specifically applies to architects, construction companies, and contractors. Each group has an

integral role to play in the generation of construction wastes (Powrie and Dacombe 2006).

Therefore, this study investigates how collaborative learning between stakeholders could

stimulate waste reduction in the construction industry. Collaborative learning occurs when all

stakeholders have similar goals and are able to work together in achieving those goals (Blassino,

et al. 2002). This mode of learning is also a key feature of sustainability initiatives (Merrild and

Christensen 2009).

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2.3. Theoretical Framework

Two theories guided the literature and practical research of this study. First,

sustainability requires that adherents maintain biodiversity and human health in the interests of

current and future generations (Bakker and Kooy 2008; Stahls, et al. 2010). It creates broad

goals which are operational in daily activities through concrete objectives (Rimmington, et al.

2006). Although the definition of sustainability is interpreted differently by various

stakeholders, it illustrates the need for greater awareness of construction wastes (Ceridon 2010).

Sustainability is also an underlying feature of waste audits (Ministry of the Environment [MOE]

2008). Waste audits describe the type and volume of different wastes produced in a facility, with

the end goal of changing current waste management techniques (MOE 2008). Waste audit

methodology, the second guiding framework for this study, is fully described in Section 4.0.

3.0. Literature Review

There are multiple views within the literature on how to reduce wood waste in the

construction industry. Reduction strategies should be based on sustainability principles and

related implementation measures, but these principles are often ignored by the construction

industry due to their limited awareness of waste management issues. Sustainable waste

management also faces the challenge of conflicting stakeholder views.

Two sustainability principles which should be used in the construction industry can be

implemented in practice by Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and Green Building

Specifications (GBS) (Powrie and Dacombe 2006). The first principle is that wastes should not

damage the environment or compromise the use of other resources (Powrie and Dacombe 2006;

Tam, et al. 2009). EMS is a valuable tool for achieving this principle because it involves

8

actively controlling the release of wastes into the environment to minimize negative impacts

(Lam, et al. 2011). Second, a coordinated effort is required to achieve sustainable construction

(Tam, et al. 2009). GBS are written guidelines for construction projects which can range from

broad to targeted environmental information (Poon, et al. 2003; Lam, et al. 2011). These

specifications could lead to collaborative learning within the construction industry, if they are

properly disseminated to relevant stakeholders (Lu and Yuan 2010; Lam, et al. 2011). However,

very few construction companies are aware of the importance of their environmental impacts.

Few contractors are aware of the environmental costs incurred during each stage of a

building’s life; currently, their primary focus is on the financial implications of construction and

demolition (Wojno 1991; Saunders and Wynn 2004; Werner, et al. 2010). Educating

construction companies on their environmental impacts through the use of a Life Cycle Analysis

(LCA) is therefore required. An LCA consists of four steps which quantify the environmental

performance of a product or process (Blom, et al. 2010). For a building, materials are extracted,

transported, and processed during the construction phase (Jambeck, et al. 2007; Blom, et al.

2010). Katz and Baum (2011) found that wastes are produced in the greatest volume during the

construction phase; however, several methods exist for reducing waste throughout this process.

Waste reduction during construction is based on several factors (Huang, et al. 2002).

Management support, employee knowledge, and positive perceptions towards waste issues are

primary determinants in successful reduction strategies (Teo and Loosemore 2001; Saunders and

Wynn 2004). Researchers have found that companies which accept waste as inevitable during

construction are major barriers to reducing overall levels of construction waste (Poon, et al.

2003). Stewardship of waste amongst contractors would create a sense of ownership during the

building process, leading to enhanced waste management (Patterson 1999). This is important for

9

expanding the current focus of construction companies beyond the sustainable design of

buildings, to the processes involved in creating them (Poon, et al. 2003; Department of

Environment and Climate Change [DECC] 2007; McMahon, et al. 2009). Also problematic for

altering waste generation during construction is stakeholder’s conflicting perspectives of waste.

Osmani et al. (2006) interviewed both architects and contractors to determine what

factors they thought caused waste during construction activities. Architects regarded the over-

ordering of materials and design changes for client satisfaction as the primary reasons for

excessive waste generation during construction (Osmani, et al. 2006). In contrast, contractors

identified the causes of waste generation as untrained labour, material damage, and poor waste

management by sub-contractors (Osmani, et al. 2006). These differences suggest that both

groups should be involved in waste-related management decisions; this could contribute to

agreement on mutual problems and effective strategies for waste reduction (Osmani, et al. 2006).

This literature review has provided information on several key features of waste

management within the construction industry. In particular, the importance of educating those

working in the construction industry and fostering cooperative support for waste management

was highlighted. These issues have not yet been discussed within the University of Waterloo

student community. Previous WATgreen projects have focused on issues such as ‘green’

building materials and improved building design on campus. No waste audits on construction

sites have been done, nor have there been any recommendations on how to reduce construction

waste. Therefore, this research attempts to fill this gap.

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4.0. Methodology

4.1. Site Characteristics

Characteristics of the study site affected the design of this waste audit. The following

information is drawn from discussions with Bob Savic, President of Savic Homes, throughout

February 2011. The building studied is situated in a newly-emerging subdivision in the Stanley

Park area of Kitchener. Construction projects for Savic Homes typically last for a period of three

months. The framing process, which is carried out by sub-contracted tradesman, generally takes

two weeks; however, weather delays can extend the process. Wood waste from framing is

collected in a central container, which is taken to a waste management facility when it is full.

Left-over wood that can be used for other construction projects is saved. For example, lumber

over 6 feet in length is never thrown out. Smaller wood pieces left over from wood cutting

activities are not considered reusable and are thus discarded. The wood waste from the site is

taken to a waste management facility which recycles waste, called S.E.L. Recycling Services.

4.2. Waste Audit Methodology

Waste audit methodology used here is based on the Waste Management Guide provided

for ERS 317 Waste Management. This waste audit consisted of four stages: preliminary

research, site visit, audit design and preparation, and on-site visual categorization. First,

preliminary research for this project involved reading peer-reviewed journal articles and past

WATgreen projects. These articles established a context for the waste audit and allowed for a

comparison between the current work and similar student-run projects. Interviews with Bob

Savic also occurred in the early stages of this research. Through his advice, the student

researchers decided to use a waste audit to evaluate the volume and type of wood waste being

11

generated during the framing of housing projects. The end goal of this audit was to identify

potential waste reduction or diversion initiatives.

During the second stage of the research methodology, there was a site visit of the housing

project. The site visit allowed the student researchers to do a quick visual survey of wood waste

present, and determine potential methods of classification. The visual survey indicated that

results would be most accurate if the audit were conducted when the wood waste container was

emptied at the S.E.L facility. This process occurred regularly once each week. In attempting to

classify the different wood present, the student researchers were challenged by the range of

shapes, lengths, and forms of wood present.

After the site visit, it was possible to begin the audit design and preparation phase of the

research. Problems generated by the various shapes of wood present contributed to a simple

classification scheme based on wood type. The three types used in construction include Oriented

Strand Boards (OSB) aspenite, plywood, and lumber. A description and associated image of

each wood type can be seen in Figure 1, below. A visual audit was used due to the importance of

knowing the shape and size of wood involved in reuse activities (Bossink and Brouwers 1996).

A weighed audit would not have provided sufficient data for this purpose. Additionally, a visual

audit was required due to the limited time that wood waste is held at the waste management

facility.

The last phase of the methodology consisted of an on-site, visual categorization of waste.

Over a two-week period, two waste ‘mini’ audits were conducted during the framing of the home

being constructed. The findings from the waste audit are summarized in Section 5.0.

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Figure 1: Categories of Wood Waste used in Audit

Fi gure 1: Categories of Wood Waste used in Audit A) OSB Aspenite is created by

A) OSB Aspenite is created by gluing wood chips together to create sheets of material. Source: Allan Building Centre, http://allenbuildingcentre.com/catalogue_home/?CATEGORY=Lumber

B) Lumber is harvested from virgin trees. Source : Allan

B) Lumber is harvested from virgin trees. Source: Allan Building Centre, http://allenbuildingcentre.com/catalogue_home/?CATEGORY=Lumber

C) Plywood consists of sheets of wood glued together.

C) Plywood consists of sheets of wood glued together. Source: Allan Building Centre, http://allenbuildingcentre.com/catalogue_home/?CATEGORY=Lumber

5.0. Results and Discussion

5.1. Waste Audit Results

The audit revealed that the wastes produced during framing activities by Savic Homes are

comprised primarily of lumber and plywood. Data in Table 1 shows that the first audit found

60% of the waste to be lumber, while the second audit found 50% lumber. Plywood made up

30% and 40% of the waste during the first and second audit, respectively. OSB apsenite was the

13

least significant wood type, as it contributed only 10% to the overall wood waste volume in both

audits. It is thought that there is very little variation in these results over time and between

construction projects due to the specific material requirements of framing activities (B. Savic,

personal communication, February 2011).

Table 1: Results of Wood Waste Visual Audit, February 2011

 

Lumber

OSB Aspenite

Plywood

Total

Waste Audit 1

60%

10%

30%

100%

Waste Audit 2

50%

10%

40%

100%

Figure 2: Image of Framing Waste in Audit, February 2011

Figure 2: Image of Framing Waste in Audit, February 2011 ©B. Savic, 2011 Figure 2 illustrates

©B. Savic, 2011

Figure 2 illustrates to the reader the large volume and weight of wood waste typically

generated during framing activities. Very few problems were encountered during this waste

audit because of its straightforward nature and focus on a specific type of waste. However, when

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investigating methods for dealing with these wood wastes, the student researchers learned that

certain contexts preclude the reuse of wood. In these instances, recycling is the most feasible

and economically viable option.

In the Region of Waterloo, recycling may be more appropriate than reuse as a method for

dealing with wood waste. This is because few local markets exist for reusing the specific shape

and type of waste generated from local construction projects. Habitat for Humanity’s “ReStore”

was the only reuse facility found in the Region of Waterloo. However, the ReStore requires that

any lumber donated to them be a minimum of 8 feet in length, and Savic Homes does not discard

anything less than 6 feet in length (Habitat for Humanity, 2011).

Additionally, the wood waste

generated from framing is of such diverse sizes and shapes that it would be challenging to reuse

this material without alteration. Finally, reused wood is not ideal as a source of construction

material because it lacks certification for use in physical structures (Timeless Material Company,

personal communication, April 2011). Reused wood is better for interior housing features, such

as flooring, doors, and kitchen cabinets.

Given the challenges of reusing wood for construction, recycling appears to be the most

valid and prominent waste management approach for the Region of Waterloo. Currently, over

50% of all construction-generated wood waste in the region is recycled into particle board,

animal bedding, landscape mulches, or fire logs (Regional Municipality of Waterloo 2002). This

waste management approach has become so popular over the past 10 years that current wood

products contain 20 to 75% recycled content, on average (Regional Municipality of Waterloo

2002). These issues are taken into consideration in the following section on future approaches to

dealing with wood waste.

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5.2. Future Steps for Minimizing and Managing Wood Waste

Minimization and management techniques are two viable options for dealing with future

wood waste volumes. Minimizing waste at the source can occur by altering production

processes with the end goal of environmental benefits (Osmani, et al. 2006). Dainty and Brooke

(2004) identified several methods for lowering the waste volumes produced during construction,

including: standardized design, stock control, workforce education, and just-in-time material

delivery. Waste management deals with existing waste by changing how it is transported, stored,

handled, and disposed (Essex and Whelan 2010; Parker 2010). Specific techniques discussed

here include selective demolition and eco-costing; both are applicable to Savic Homes as well as

the larger community of construction companies.

Selective demolition could help improve the reuse of wood and thus reduce waste

volumes. Traditional demolition processes generate high volumes of contaminated or damaged

wood waste, rendering it unusable (Yahya and Boussabaine 2006). In selective demolition, more

materials are preserved because workers manually remove pieces of the building before it is

destroyed (Kourmpanis, et al. 2008; Roussat, et al. 2009). The advantage of this technique is

that by preserving the form of wood, it increases the possibility of its reuse. The nature of

selective demolition means that it is expensive and labour intensive (Huey-Jin and Zhi-Teng

2010). Therefore, incentives and policies should be offered to encourage its use (Taylor, et al.

2009; Lu and Yuan 2010). Policies are also important in the eco-costing of construction wastes.

Eco-costing evaluates the direct and indirect environmental impacts of construction

activities based on the processes, policies, and technology involved (Ortiz, et al. 2010).

Depending on the current and desired level of environmental impacts, the framework can assist

in the identification of improved management strategies (Werner, et al. 2010). It is also a useful

16

framework for achieving sustainable construction methods because it helps to preserve resources

(Yahya and Boussabaine 2006).

Eco-costing also contributes to the creation of Waste Management Plans (WMPs) and

waste management goals (Mills and Showalter 1999). WMPs identify preferred methods of

waste disposal and outline the responsibilities of each stakeholder group involved (Parker 2010).

They are beneficial because they shift attitudes in favour of closed-loop systems of waste

management, in which the use of virgin materials is replaced by existing materials (Bossink and

Brouwers 1996). Companies with multiple on-site material demands struggle to create

comprehensive WMPs (Mills and Showalter 1999). Waste management goals are useful in such

situations. These goals provide guidance for stakeholder action and are based on the waste

classifications involved in each unique situation (Schachermayer, et al. 2000; Merino, et al.

2010). Both selective demolition and eco-costing shift the focus away from recycling wood

waste to reducing and reusing this waste, which are higher on the waste management hierarchy.

6.0. Conclusions and Recommendations

This report has provided a comprehensive discussion on methods for decreasing or

reusing construction wastes in Ontario. From the waste audit of Savic Homes, it appears that

reuse was not a feasible option in the Region of Waterloo. Reuse was the primary focus of this

report because of its significant economic, social, and environmental benefits. However,

management techniques such as selective demolition and eco-costing have similar potential for

alleviating the burden of wood waste on landfills. From these findings, three key

recommendations for Savic Homes were created and prioritized to promote implementation

(MOE 2008). From most to least important, they are:

17

1.

Contract a professional agency to conduct a thorough waste audit. This report has

provided only a microcosm view of the wood wastes generated each year by Savic

Homes. Waste management is a particularly important issue for Savic Homes

because their next project will attempt to reach LEED certification (B. Savic, personal

communication, April 2011). One of the requirements of LEED certification is to

reduce waste and increase material reuse (Da Silva and Ruwanpura, 2009). A waste

audit would be greatly beneficial in achieving this aim and could also help Savic

Homes write a WMP for their daily operations.

2. Engage in collaborative learning between stakeholders. With the upcoming focus on

LEED certification, Savic Homes is in an ideal position to initiate discussions

amongst construction companies in Waterloo Region on how to improve their waste

management practices. Additionally, these discussions could contribute to an

enhanced public image for the companies involved.

3. Consider the methods proposed here for minimizing wood waste at the source. These

are very straightforward changes to make and could result in significant economic

savings (Ortiz, et al. 2010).

It is hoped that the information in this report will reach the architects, construction

companies, and contractors who comprise the target audience. These stakeholders are

encouraged to initiate studies on alternative solutions for managing wood waste. Ultimately, the

construction industry should be striving to achieve more sustainable methods in the interests of

current and future generations. Barriers towards achieving sustainability include a lack of waste

management awareness and conflicting perspectives between these three stakeholders. Thus,

future research is needed on how to overcome these specific barriers.

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Daian, G., and Ozarska, B. 2009. Wood waste management practices and strategies to increase sustainability standards in the Australian wooden furniture manufacturing sector. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(17): 1594-1602.

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