When the U.S. Green Building Association (USGBC) launched its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program in 2000, it marked one of the first times building projects were recognized for using an exemplary environmental set of standards. Sixteen years later, more than 3 billion square feet of space have been certified to the program; dozens of construction and demolition (C&D) recycling operations have opened their doors; and several demolition firms have LEED accredited professionals (ACs) on their payrolls.
The recycling and demolition world continues to adapt to keep up with the latest trends and demands of the green building industry. Newer versions of LEED emphasize a more circular approach to the design and building process. The shift is most apparent with the latest version, LEED v4, which awards up to five points for “building life-cycle impact reduction.”
To be considered for this credit, a project must “demonstrate reduced environmental effects during initial project decision-making by reusing existing building resources or demonstrating a reduction in materials use through life-cycle assessment.”
“Historic building reuse” or “renovation of a blighted or abandoned building” can fetch a project five points, while two to four points can be earned for “building and material reuse” or a “whole building life-cycle assessment.”
This emphasis on material life cycles is not exclusive to the building industry. Across the globe, manufacturers are trying to capture as much value from the materials they are producing. Armstrong World Industries, for example, has extensive recycling programs in place to take back its ceiling tiles and flooring to be used in new products.
Dow Chemical Co., a company you will read about in this issue, is taking several steps to reduce its environmental footprint. As more companies continue to incorporate concepts of a circular economy into their businesses, materials being recovered from job sites and materials being recycled at C&D recycling facilities will grow in importance.
The USGBC’s 2015 Green Building Impact Study, prepared by Booz Allen, found that the green building industry contributed more than $134.3 billion in labor income to working Americans, and employs more than 2.3 million workers. “Demand for green building will only continue to grow as individuals, businesses and institutions continue to prioritize sustainable approaches to the design, construction and operations of our built environment,” USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi remarked when the study was released.
I couldn’t agree more. The demolition and C&D recycling industries have much to gain from a the growth in green building and the circular economy. Throughout 2016, we will highlight companies that are at the forefront this movement in our Circular Economy Perspectives Series, such as Dow in this issue. We will feature essays and podcasts from thought leaders from various industries that are embracing the circular economy so our readers can gain insights into this important global concept.