Building recycling on the rise

The demolition of buildings in the U.S. produces about 124 million tons of debris a year, most of which is carted off to landfills. But that is starting to change: Instead of indiscriminately bashing buildings with wrecking balls, companies are taking a more deliberate approach, dismantling structures and recycling the materials. For instance, PNC Financial Services plans to recycle more than 70 percent of the 11,000 tons of waste generated by the deconstruction of downtown Pittsburgh’s former Public Safety Building. Concrete will refill the site, steel will be made into new rebar, aluminum will be reused in other products, and foam-board ceiling tiles will be returned to the manufacturer for reuse. “You are trying to avoid going for new virgin materials and all the embodied energy and associated environmental impact that reflects,” says Alan Traugott of the U.S. Green Building Council. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, said PNC’s Gary Saulson, “We’re going to save over $200,000 in dump fees alone.”