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Construction Waste: More Than Debris

The construction industry’s ability to generate massive amounts of waste would be a rather impressive feat if it didn’t cost contractors billions of dollars annually and result in anywhere from 230 to 530 million tons of solid waste. Piles of dirt, debris, and demolition refuse are stacked high awaiting removal during virtually every stage of a construction project, and all of it needs to go somewhere. In the traditional sense, this is the waste that must be managed during your typical construction project; however, new ideas of what constitutes waste are being introduced that could change the way contractors view those massive piles.

What if you were told that waste comes in many forms — not just leftover building materials and fractured earth? In this editorial, the Tampa construction attorneys at Cotney Construction Law will discuss several different types of waste that can reduce profitability and prevent you from growing your business. 

AGC Toolbox Talk Presents Interesting Ideas on Construction Waste

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), recently published an addition to their Lean Construction for Trades Toolbox Talk Series, titled “8 Wastes in Construction.” The presentation was developed by the AGC Learn Construction Forum. In the presentation, they briefly outline eight different types of construction waste. Below, a Tampa construction lawyer has summarized all eight types:

  1. Transportation: Whenever materials or equipment is transported to and from the project site unnecessarily, this results in additional costs, wasted resources, and lost time.
  2. Inventory: Excess materials that can’t be used effectively on a project will only lead to higher costs and additional waste. The contractor should aim to utilize all of their inventory while minimizing potential shortages or overages.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Inventory Control

  1. Motion: Mobilizing workers to and from the project site without a gameplan can also lead to waste — wasted time, wasted resources, and wasted costs. Ensuring that you workers are always in a location where they can be effective is essential for reducing waste.
  2. Waiting: It’s hard to generate revenue when you’re waiting for another party to take care of their responsibilities. Whether it’s waiting for an order to process, waiting for supplies to be restocked, or waiting for a supervisor to overcome an illness, time spent waiting is time wasted.
  3. Over Processing/Over Design: As a contractor, your reputation is largely based on your ability to complete projects on time and under budget. Quality is important, and you should always stand behind the work you’ve done; however, an unrealistic focus on quality can lead to more waste, too. Give the owner what they paid for — nothing more and nothing less. 

Related: Perfecting the Scope of Work

  1. Overproduction: AGC’s presentation focuses a lot of attention on contractors who attempt to do “too much.” Understandably, you want to stand out from your competitors and generate a positive reputation for your business, but you can’t allow yourself to suffer from self-inflicted wounds in this pursuit. When it comes to contractors (and material suppliers) allowing materials to be overproduced only raises costs and adds to the hundreds of millions of tons of waste produced every year.
  2. Defects and Re-Work: When a product or service fails to satisfy the owner’s expectations, it inevitably leads to wasted time, wasted talent, and wasted materials. Fortunately, you can stay in control of defects and re-work by making an ardent commitment to quality and partnering with a Tampa construction lawyer.
  3. Field Ideas (Under Utilization): This might be the most interesting idea posed by the AGC. What is the cost of not listening to your employees? The cost of ignoring apparent skills and knowledge that could greatly benefit your bottom line? Waste can accumulate in less obvious ways, such as the opportunity cost of not engaging with your workforce, learning their ideas, or gaining their insights into your projects on the hands-on level.

Related: Opportunity Cost in the Construction Industry

How Waste Management Benefits Contractors

Reducing costs isn’t the only benefit of waste management. Whether in the form of debris, inventory, defects, field ideas, or something else entirely, when it comes to waste management, there is substantial upside for contractors who take part. Some of the main benefits include:

Compliance: Can you afford to be found in violation of the Solid Waste Disposal Act? Managing solid waste properly can help you avoid the $25,000 civil penalty issued to those who violate any requirement or regulation established by the Solid Waste Disposal Act. Noncompliance can also tarnish your reputation faster than silver soaked in bleach.

Related: How Lean Construction Eliminates Waste

Social Responsibility: As a contractor, controlling the amount of waste you dispose of can help you preserve the environment and ensure that it is available for others to enjoy. According to some experts, the US is on pace to run out of landfill space within the next 18 years. With construction responsible for up to 530 million tons of this waste, the least we can do as an industry is make an effort to cut down on waste. The less natural resources and energy you use to complete a project, the more that becomes available for society.

Reputation: Your firm’s reputation is vital to its success. Becoming an industry leader in waste management can help you become an authority in your market. It will also improve your reputation in the eyes of potential applicants. When interested job seekers see that you are not only managing solid waste efficiently but all forms of waste (such as those listed above), they will see that your company is working hard to set itself apart from the rest of the pack. When employees feel like they are part of something “bigger than construction” they will dedicate themselves even more fully to your goals.

If you would like to speak with one of our Tampa construction lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.