deconstructed, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from tristam sparks’ photostream

Pittsburgh’s construction industry is booming, thanks to a healthy regional economy and some of the best developers and contractors in the United States. We all want to see high-quality, community-supported development happening across the City of Pittsburgh and as Mayor I will make sure that this development boom continues and starts to spread to neighborhoods that have lacked investment for far too long. In supporting development, we also need to take some steps to make sure that we minimize waste and environmental impacts. One way to do this is to work with developers and construction companies to help them recycle or reuse as much building material as possible when they demolish or renovate existing buildings and to preserve historical materials and building components.

1. Saving Money and Reducing Waste

Cities across the country have implemented construction reuse and recycling plans to help developers and construction companies find cost-effective ways to repurpose materials from demolitions or renovations. Many companies in Pittsburgh are already doing this and many more would be happy to with a little support from the city.

Construction and demolition waste makes up about 30% of the material entering landfills across the country each year, despite the fact that much of this material can be profitably reused, recycled, or resold to companies that specialized in antique and historic construction components. We should work with our partners in construction and development to create a viable action plan to ensure that more than 50% of material from constructions and demolitions is reused or recycled. This will save companies money on hauling and landfill fees, will save their customers money as these costs will not be passed on to them, and will prevent millions of tons of construction and demolition debris from entering the waste stream. It is a win for everyone involved.

2. Meeting Sustainable Development Standards

Recycling and reusing construction and demolition debris is also a great way for developers to meet sustainable building standards such as LEED, or to achieve a higher LEED rating than they would otherwise be able to. If we can create a strong program for construction and demolition debris recycling we can support the development of even more sustainable buildings and solidify our place as one of the world leaders in green construction and design.