How Modular Construction is Keeping Waste Out of U.S. Landfills
When we think about the overflow of our nation’s landfills, we probably picture limiting our food waste; recycling plastics, glass and paper; and keeping out potentially harmful hazardous waste. What we probably don’t consider is one of the largest sources of waste generation, construction and demolition (C&D) waste. It is estimated that anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the national solid waste stream is building-related waste, with only 20 percent of C&D waste being recycled.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated, in 2003, that 164 million tons of building-related waste was generated in the United States annually. Those are pretty staggering numbers. But, how can we scale these down to understand the amount of construction and demolition waste generated in a typical building project?
A standard new building project produces an average of 3.9 pounds of waste per square foot. To put this in perspective, a mid-sized 50,000 sq. ft. office building will produce 195,000 pounds of waste. That’s almost 100 tons! If that project first includes building demolition, then these figures increase dramatically. This same 50,000 sq. ft. building will now be responsible for creating 4,000 tons of waste, or a staggering 155 pounds per square foot.
The modular environmental advantage
With the rise of modular construction as an affordable and efficient alternative to traditional construction, there is now a sustainable option for keeping tons of waste out of our nation’s landfills with each new build.
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Modular construction image via Shutterstock.