Builder Finds Way to Massively Reduce Construction Waste

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Anyone who has spent time on a construction job knows that building generates waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's 2018 figures, more than 600 million tons of construction waste builds up per year; that's twice as much as all the municipal waste collected from homes and businesses countrywide.

Ken Calao, owner of the New York construction company CNY Group, sought solutions to this problem. His B corporation, held to higher environmental standards, aspired to a seemingly impossible goal to reduce construction waste by 50%. With reduction and recycling strategies, CNY Group reduced waste by 90%.

Calao began with meticulous record keeping. First, his staff tracked materials brought in and sent out of the site. Next, they categorized materials into different groups based on recyclability, including sheetrock, wood, glass, and electronic waste.

CNY Group first implemented its processes at The Crossing at Jamaica Station, a 729-unit residential project. Their efforts reduced or reused 93% of all materials.

Colao says the construction industry can follow his suit. "We're like the army. We're the guys and gals who are on the ground making it happen. We're implementing it," he says. "We're not designing it per se, and we're not initiating how budgets are spent.

"The biggest challenge that we have is education of the trade contractors. We're convinced that when trades adopt some of these standards and see that their materials costs on projects are lower, their profits are a little bit higher, and in the future they can bid a little bit more competitively, they'll see there's a very clear business advantage."

He acknowledges that the industry sits in the early stages but remains optimistic. "Slowly, as the architects and the engineers start specifying it and the developers and the owners start requiring it, that's how I think it will help evolve the industry."

A New York-based construction business owner, Ken Colao, claims that his industry can reduce building waste by 90%. Furthermore, he claims he has the proof to back it up.

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