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By Eric Weld   Date: 12/11/09 Bookmark and Share

Ford Hall Construction Sets High Bar for Recycling

It’s not easy to clear space for and construct a building the size of 140,000-square-foot Ford Hall without creating a lot of waste in the process.

But that’s exactly what Smith College did.

Of the more than 2,500 tons of materials cleared away to create the construction site and used to build the new facility, 96 percent was recycled. Only 3.4 percent of materials were sent to the landfill.

“This is an extraordinary accomplishment for a building of Ford’s scope and scale,” noted Dano Weisbord, director of environmental sustainability.

To achieve such an impressive recycling rate, the project was approached with a comprehensive materials re-use plan, said John Robinson, manager of capital projects in Facilities Management, who oversaw the Ford Hall construction. The college worked with the building contracting company William A. Berry & Son, Inc., of Danvers, Mass., in adhering to the plan, said Robinson.

“Our plan looked at the waste that would be generated by the construction of the building and determined what materials could and would be recycled,” explained Robinson. “Then we set up the process and procedures to see that it could be accomplished.”

The recycling plan addressed what would be done with the materials from the demolition of existing buildings, as well as the blacktop covering the site landscape. Separate dumpsters were used to distinguish between recycled materials and those that would be sent to the landfill. Construction work was supervised with the intention of a high recycling rate.

“Berry did a very good job carrying out the plan,” commented Robinson.

As a result, 222 tons of asphalt were recycled, 190 tons of wood, and 106 tons of metal, among other re-uses. More than 70 tons of “scrap” materials were put to use somewhere else on the same building project. (View the final recycling report.)

“This is important because it reduces the growth of landfills,” said Robinson, “ and it reduces the amount of raw materials that are needed for future construction.”

Things could have gone differently. Without such a comprehensive recycling plan, more than 50 percent of materials cleared and used for construction would have likely ended up in the landfill, Robinson said. Even new buildings with recycling programs typically achieve only a percentage of 70 to 75 percent, he said.

It’s fitting that the construction of Ford Hall was completed with a nod to environmental sustainability. The facility is a pace setter in using sustainability initiatives in its daily operation, such as green roofs, aggressive water management, and passive lighting to name only a few.

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