Zero by 50: Missoula’s builders look for ways to reduce construction waste

Garden City Compost facility supervisor Jason Duffin casts his “vote” by placing a sticker on a strategy that could reduce construction and demolition waste in Missoula. The group brainstormed ideas to reduce waste as part of the city’s ZERO by FIFTY initiative, and taped them to a wall chart. (Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

Leaders of Missoula’s building industry met this week to brainstorm ways to reduce construction and demolition waste.

As part of the city’s ZERO to FIFTY initiative, local construction companies, designers, contractors and deconstruction businesses came up with several strategies, including implementing more deconstruction options, improving education around waste reduction techniques and incorporating infrastructure for waste collection, transport, storage and disbursement for reuse.

“(Home ReSource) is able to help the community reuse roughly 1,000 tons of materials per year. We know that’s just a fraction of what’s possible and we know, compared to what’s going to the landfill, that’s just a drop in the bucket,” said Jeremy Drake, community engagement manager for Home ReSource.

The ZERO to FIFTY initiative was adopted in 2016 by the Missoula City Council, with a goal for the city to reduce its waste stream by 90 percent by 2050.

Construction and demolition debris make up over half of what’s in the nation’s landfills. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 548 million tons of construction and demolition waste went to landfills in 2015. Homes and businesses accounted for about 262 million tons of waste.

“One study I read said that 33 percent of the waste generated on a job site can be attributed just to failing to plan for the waste, so again, looking at adaptive planning or designing out waste, those are really good ways that we can address problems,” said Sarah Lundquist, an intern for Home ReSource.

Other solutions included municipal changes, like creating incentives and requirements for deconstruction and reuse, guidelines for deconstruction waste management and designs that ensure resource efficiency.

Using deconstruction practices and diverting waste from the landfill can help companies and clients save money, participants said.

Windsor Building Systems, a manufacturer in Madison, Wisconsin, saves about $5,000 each year by avoiding disposal fees. They developed reuse and recycling programs on their job sites.

“That’s what we’re hoping to get folks thinking about is, why might reducing construction and demolition waste be good for them – these particular stakeholders – and the greater community?” Drake said.

Becky Douglas, co-founder of Heritage Timber Building Deconstruction & Reclaimed Material, and Garden City Compost facility supervisor Jason Duffin talk during Thursday’s meeting about ways to decrease construction waste, including improved on-site infrastructure. (Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

Forrest Senterfeit, project manager for Dick Anderson Construction, said his company is overseeing local projects like the Russell Street Bridge, the Mercantile, and Lewis & Clark Elementary School. With many projects happening at once, having multiple waste streams is expensive.

“With construction timelines, it’s often hard to have the time to plan and to find all of the options for construction waste. The easiest thing is to just throw it in the dumpster until there are viable sources and places to take all that,” Senterfeit said.

Dick Anderson Construction is trying to divert its waste stream and find better options to reduce it. However, there’s always room for improvement.

“Sometimes, you’re restricted by the owner and by cost,” he said. “We try to work on the front end of the project through methods like lean construction, where you’re looking at the project planning period ahead of starting and identifying how to prevent mistakes or over-ordering materials and things like that to cut down on waste.”

Senterfeit said that one of the most important things that could ensure reduced waste is improving site infrastructure. Having bins available to separate materials on-site and having locations in town that could remanufacture them is a major starting point.

“In my years of working in Missoula, I’ve seen with aggregate, for example, there were places you could take crushed concrete for a while and then there were places you couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “So if we had the right infrastructure in place that was reliable, and contractors knew where to take the material and the price of disposal was understood and guaranteed, it would promote more of that.”

Jason Nuckolls, founder of Montana Deconstruction Services, also attended the discussion, and said that deconstruction is a major step forward to diverting waste.

The practice breaks down structures or interiors of homes and allows clients to save salvageable materials. They can also be sold through building material stores like Home ReSource and reused for other projects.

“We’ve had several buildings, like small shops that we’ve done over the years, where the materials got back to Home ReSource and in the same 24-hour cycle they were already being used on other buildings,” he said.

Nuckolls believes that more people will look into using deconstruction as an option to demolish a house or commercial building. Right now, Missoula is home to three deconstruction companies.

“As the market continues to grow, the need for more people using deconstruction methods and having businesses that have that as a services will be necessary,” he said.

Home ReSource will compile the strategies from the meeting into a comprehensive report that outlines which solutions should be pursued first and possible next steps.

Reporter Mari Hall can be reached via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.