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Green Buildings Start with Education, Vision and Materials Selection

Green building starts with vision. Design is the stage of construction in which cost is managed. And construction materials are where natural resources are conserved for the long term... here's how.

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california c&d construction and demolition debris recycling green solutions

Green Building Design/Build

Green building starts with vision. Design is the stage of construction in which cost is managed. Building and construction materials offer a variety of opportunities to green a business.

Not only can minimalist design with open spaces be incorporated. But recycled and reclaimed materials can be specified. Material choices can be selected from renewable resources, and maintenance can be planned to minimize wear and tear -- thus extending the life of the facilities.

Green Building Facilities Management and Construction

Green OPPORTUNITIES abound in the facilities management and construction segment of your business. RESULTS are equally impactful: cost savings over the lifetime of the facility, healthier workspaces, lower cost to the environment...and the feeling of satisfaction that excellence in stewardship gives your team.

"Carpet doesn't wear out so much as it uglies out! People get sick of it," John Blue explains.

The focus at California's state level is to reduce dependence on disposal of waste materials. By requiring all new construction to be "green", the state is both reducing energy consumption and reducing landfill impact both today and in the future. When John Blue, sustainable building analyst for the CIWMB (California Interated Waste Management Board), was asked about carpet, he reported that carpet is 2% of landfill volume by weight.

Green Building Carpet Options

"Designers can meet any spec they want if they buy materials right. Some companies even take used carpet tile and trim it up, redie it -- and reuse it." John relayed that some of the green strategies for carpeting includes the "modular approach" -- which the state is also applying to their furniture design strategy. "Carpet tile is preferable to roll goods. It's slightly more expensive, but when accomodating modular office furniture, it's easier to work with. Damaged spots can be pulled up and replaced, vs. replacing the whole carpet. The trend is to use carpet tiles in offices and all office spaces except large meeting rooms and hallways." Commercial waste makes up 64% of the disposed waste stream in California (2003). Of that commercial waste load on our communities, building materials -- construction and demolition materials -- make up 14% and organic waste, 29%. Paper follows closely behind with 26% and plastic at 12%. All together, these common commercial waste products that can be easily recycled make up 81% of commercial waste. There's gold in them thar' hills!
SOURCE: California Statewide Waste Characteriaztion Study 2004

Sustainable Building with Green Materials

"Cost for green materials is still a hurdle, especially for consumers," says Shayna Prunier, home owner/remodeler by night and a SoCal building materials educator by day, "but increasing the volume of business applications can make green construction costs equal to conventional costs." Low volume of specialty items and lack of visibility of the options make it difficult to market high performance materials to consumers. But corporate environmental professionals, building managers and design professionals have access to consultants and field reps such as Shayna to educate them about green options.

More knowledge + more volume equals lower cost.

Shayna is a 6-year veteran of field education about materials management. Her degree in interior design adds breadth to her field work and she is applying what she's learned by working with her husband to redesign and rehab their own home. Her experience with multiple sides of the building materials world includes working with facilities managers, interior designers and architects, and her training gives her a broad view of what's happening in building management and construction in Southern California. And what's happening is complex. If something's easy and simple, there's no opportunity, and green building is anything but easy and simple. And choosing green materials is no exception.

Developers Are Key to Green Building Vision for Society

Developers are the key to "developing more than buildings -- they develop the vision" of a society. People accept what's available and they don't have easy access to alternative materials. Developers do. "And many of our California developers are a little slow to the green movement," she acknowledged. "They will make a real difference when they improve their green strategies!"

Implementing the vision requires practical knowledge...and the level of green knowledge varies by industry sector. Continuing education and professional guidelines make a difference in how informed building professionals are. If 10 represents "KNOWLEDGABLE ABOUT GREEN BUILDING", the following chart roughly represents levels of practical green knowledge a very limited survey of industry professionals found. (We'll work toward better survey results in the future.)

KNOWLEDGABLE Owners Architects Interior Designers Contractors Compliance/govt Nonprofit certification groups
10 5 6 6 3 3 7

What's needed to get our building community up to a "TEN"?

  • A marketplace without a price differential for green.
  • Standardization of products and information.
  • Government gets involved and makes sustainability a priority -- at local, state and federal levels.
  • And people have case studies and models for reference.

Building Green - Vermont

Publisher of Environmental Building News and the GreenSpec directory. Developer of the BuildingGreen Suite, a research tool for green design.

Building Green is a nonprofit nationally known for their subscription-based directory of building materials that are evaluated independently. No advertising is accepted from material vendors. The founders are architects: Alex Wilson and Nadav Malin.

Global Green - Southern California

Global Green USA works with governments, industry, and individuals to educate and promote a shift toward sustainable policies and projects. They maintain a building materials resource center in Santa Monica with samples and information about a wide range of cutting edge materials. Visit

GLOBAL GREEN Resource Center
2218 Main Street, 2nd Floor
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: 310.581.2700
Fax: 310.581.2702
Email: ggusa@

CIWMB -- California

Green Building Design and Construction Home Page for the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Provides Information on green building design and construction including case studies, project design, programs and partnerships, links to related web sites, and more! Visit

California Green Builder

Certified California Green Builder homes feature many environmental benefits that save energy, water, and resources. CGB differentiates builders from their competitors, enhances sales and can get them significant benefits from jurisdictions in entitlement, permitting, plan-check and inspections. California's cities and counties like CGB because it saves energy, water and landfill capacity. Visit

Build It Green -- California

Build It Green is a professional non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote healthy, energy and resource-efficient buildings in California. They staff the "Ask an Expert Green Building Hotline" 888.40.GREEN ext.2 (888.404.7336) and (online form) to answer questions about building materials and construction techniques. Visit

USGBC -- LEED® Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council is the nation's leading coalition of corporations, builders, universities, federal and local agencies, and nonprofit organizations working together to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Greenbuild as well as the LEED® Green Building Rating SystemT are programs of the USGBC. For more information on the USGBC, visit

CARE - Carpet Recovery

CARE is a nonprofit organization supported by corporations, government agencies and anyone else with a vested interest in diverting carpet from landfill. Each contribution signifies good faith support and a willingness to participate in the process of helping achieve CARE's objective of 40% landfill diversion by the year 2012.

Cal standards for carpet adopted June 2006 can be found at: The California Gold Sustainable Carpet Standard and Management Memo outline the requriements for state purchases of carpet. You'll also find a list of products that have been certified. If your company has products to have certified contact the certifying agent, SCS


"I'd love to see people educate themselves about real green options so they can sort out their options. I spend most of my time providing information about recycling, materials selection and certification systems," she explains.

Green materials are about high performance, health, and low impact on the environment. A wide range of factors fit in the equation that measures sustainability. A few include:

  • Durability to extend use of materials and reduce planned obsolescence
  • Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) and other damaging chemicals
  • Recyclable for reusability
  • Recycled materials content to reduce refuse in landfills and use of virgin natural resources
  • Low impact manufacturing process to minimize lifespan impact on our life support system
  • Health enhancing to minimize negative impact and foster health and wellbeing
  • Biodiversity supportive to maintain the earth's systems of regeneration
The LEED® rating system provided great leadership with information in their early days, but, as Shayna observed from her fieldwork position, "today it seems the momentum has shifted toward marketing the system."

Coming on the heels of the failed attempt to locate the "GreenBuild 2007" in Los Angeles, there are rumblings about their fast growth and expansion. The LEED rating system is broadly acknowledged as the "gold standard" in the construction industry and has accomplished much in moving the construction industry forward with comprehensive standards and guidelines for materials and techniques that reduce energy consumption and minimize impact on the environment.

California Recycling Incentive Strategies for Building Materials

Building Materials
Tipping fees are charged at landfills to provide revenue for recycling programs. $1.40 / ton of materials disposed goes into CIWMB's General Account to promote markets for recycled materials and cleanups of illegal dump sites. Grant programs use the fees to assist local community programs.

$1 for every tire goes into CIWMB's Tire Account. Grants programs help promote markets for waste tires and cleanup illegal tire piles. Some products that have been developed with the help of the grants program include concrete paving for use on roads.

Motor Oil
$.16/gallon goes into CIWMB's Oil Account to certify motor oil collection centers and promote development of markets for used re-refined motor oil. Grant programs are available.

A sliding fee is charged on the sale of electronic equipment by size of monitor screen. Board of Equalization and CIWMB get a portion of these fees for management of used electronic products, and to set up the infrastructure of certified collection and recycling centers. They pay collectors and recyclers to offset a portion of their costs. Funds are also used for public education.

The government's role in greening communities is both one of setting standards and purchasing. With billions of dollars in green building slated for the Los Angeles area for the coming year, these libraries, schools, airport and administration buildings provide prototypes and case studies for the local (and even international) building communities. Whether the green technologies demonstrated are open design, photovoltaic solar installations, or use of recycled materials -- these examples of cutting edge green design spread the word about results, options and techniques.

But government leads by more than purchases. They also mandate buying standards and preferred environmental materials lists that affect the private sector's green playing field. When government departments have the opportunity to set standards of performance, but limit their impact to supporting current business relationships -- the result is that the wider field of manufacturers have little initiative to improve their product performance standards. Setting standards that any company can reach for is highly motivational and extends the market far beyond government projects.

The private sector provides both need and vision when we look at how some companies identify business processes and address them. DuPont was widely known as a chemical conglomerate with a history of pollution problems. This multi-national corporation provides a working case study in how even some of the worst polluters can change their philosophy of business and put determination and dollars behind efforts to change. According to a speech by Chad Holliday, Chairman and CEO, "DuPont is one of the few industrial companies in the world that defines its long term business objective in terms of sustainability… in the Financial Times annual CEO poll of 'Companies that best manage and effect environmental resources', we placed 11th." DuPont's first step, like most companies' was to address environmental waste and emissions. DuPont flatly declared that "The Goal Is '0' for all injuries, illnesses, incidents, waste and emissions.

"Today, many companies are beginning to report in the area of corporate social responsibility. However, our view is that openness and transparency are necessary but not sufficient. We believe the transformation of our businesses to ones that create significantly more value while using substantially less depletable resources will be critical to achieving a future world that is sustainable." (Read his speech at:

"However, our view is that openness and transparency are necessary but not sufficient." Chad Holliday, Chairman and CEO, DuPont


In recent years, consumers and facility managers have associated a variety of health symptoms with the installation of new carpet and other building materials. Definitive studies have not been idetified to determine whether the chemicals emitted by new carpets are responsible, but if you are installing new carpet, you may wish to take the following steps:
  • Talk to your local fiber consultant. Ask for information on emissions from carpet.
  • Ask the dealer to unroll and air out the carpet in a well-ventilated area before installation.
  • Ask for low-emitting adhesives if adhesives are needed.
  • Consider leaving the premises during and immediately after carpet installation. You may wish to schedule the installation when most family members or office workers are out.
  • Be sure the dealer requires the installer to follow the Carpet and Rug Institute's installation guidelines.
  • Open doors and windows. Increasing the amount of fresh air in the home will reduce exposure to most chemicals released from carpet. During and after installation, use window fans, room air conditioners, or other mechanical ventilation equipment you may have installed in your house, to exhaust fumes to the outdoors. Keep them running for 48 to 72 hours after the new carpet is installed.
  • Contact your carpet dealer if objectionable odors persist.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper carpet maintenance.

Certification for Solutions

A few of the more prominent certification programs that apply to building materials management are:

Environmentally Preferable Products

SCS -- Scientific Certification Systems is a leading third-party provider of certification, auditing and testing services, and standards. Visit

ISO -- ISO 14000 environment management systems and standards.

ISO 14000 is actually a SERIES of international standards on environmental management. It provides a framework for the development of both the system and the supporting audit program. Visit


It's a wild and wooly world out there for both green-conscious consumers and commercial buyers. With nearly 18 million people in Southern California, the sheer volume of construction management options is overwhelming. That's where third party certifications come in. But even certifications aren't simple. There are dozens of certification standards that affect product groups, construction techniques, and compliance mandates.

Building material certifications are generally done by specific product -- not by company. So each product needs to be researched for its unique properties that can include chemical content, use of limited or endangered species of natural resources, manufacturing processes, and recycling options at the end of the product's useful life. Certifications can make that selection process faster and less frustrating.


"If you don't buy recycled materials, you aren't recycling!" is a growing mantra in pollution prevention circles. Companies are finding that people are willing to turn in recyclable materials -- but the market for products made out of those materials aren't keeping pace. That's where vision comes in. And design. And purchasing behaviors.

Lifespan economics analysis is replacing strictly-financial economics that don't take into account acquisition of raw materials, the manufacturing footprint or the end of product life.

The general cost for recycling used carpet runs under $2 a yard. Demolition companies charge contractors. Contractors charge customers…and often, customers can't see paying that extra cost for responsibly recycling the used material. And those materials are either sent to the landfill, or to ships that carry the material across the ocean to a hungry manufacturing economy...Asia. There are currently no "recycling use fees" for carpeting like there are for electronic products or tires. Without comparable user fees, there are only ethical and "sustainable business" motivations for proper disposal of waste construction materials.

Lifespan economics analysis is replacing strictly-financial economics that don't take into account acquisition of raw materials, the manufacturing footprint or the end of product life. By seeing products as part of a closed system, we can better design products and processes for cyclical utility. For instance, when new carpeting is make from recycled carpeting and plastics, it reduces the use of virgin petroleum, reduces volume in landfills, and reclaims plastic materials for multiple generations of usable products. The overall ecological footprint for that "pound of material" is thus reduced several times, not just once, as is commonly assumed in traditional economics.

recycling consumer carpet at Los Angeles Fiber

Los Angeles Fiber recycles residential carpet by reprocessing it for use in padding fiber and injection molding products.

California Carpet Reclamation Programs

The carpet industry was one of the first to recognize the need to reduce landfill volume. There are recycling and reclamation options available in the Southern California area that either specialize in either commercial OR residential carpet...that take ALL carpet for processing. Yes, finding the right vendor to partner with your recycling program takes a bit of research.

Bentley Prince Street's ReEntry Program

Bentley Prince Street, a Los Angeles County carpet company, has met the ISO 9001 Quality Standard and the ISO 14001 Environmental Standard. They have also joined the INVISTA Reclamation Program to dispose of carpet and reduce the burden on landfills. By using the ReEntry program to dispose of used carpet products, companies can avoid costly landfill disposal fees and stringent government restrictions while also helping protect the environment.

Since its creation in 1994, the ReEntry program has diverted more than 100 million pounds of material from landfills (Interface Inc. companies worldwide). Through the program's partnership with INVISTA, Bentley Prince Street will take back any broadloom or modular carpet product from any commercial manufacturer after its useful life and find the most environmentally responsible solution for reclamation. The program also takes into account the cost of energy and fuel needed to reclaim the carpet to ensure the most environmentally conscious solution.

Los Angeles Fiber's Consumer Carpet Reclamation Program

When a company is built on recycling and reclamation, it is able to tailor programs for related materials. Los Angeles Fiber has done just that. Their carpet and textile recycling plant can design a program to collect consumer waste from carpet installers and garment manufacturers and reduce operating costs from waste disposal.

At the other end of the plant's processing, the business community has access to nylon, wool and polypropylene fibers, sorted textiles and larger pieces that can be sourced for a wide variety of products such as automotive insulation, injection molded products like pipes, chairs, and engine components, even umbrellas and sewer pipes! The most direct product is probably the 100% postconsumer recycled carpet cushion -- from carpet to carpet padding! A direct savings to the landfill, and to the companies specifying green products.

"Our biggest problem," says Ron Greitzer, president, is "communicating the availability of this solution to our waste problems." As more companies specify recycled content in their facilities management purchasing projects, the market can expand to make recycling and reclamation a natural sourcing solution.

The choices are many, and sustainable options start with the vision of how much new material to use, which kinds, how to maintain it, how long to keep it, and how to recycle the previous generation of materials. All these decision points give you the opportunity to refine your green strategy and save more than money!


Bentley Prince Street Carpets
14641 E. Don Julian Road
City Industry, California 91746
1-800 423 4709

Ron Greitzer, President
Los Angeles Fiber Company
5190 Santa Fe Avenue
Vernon, CA 90058

Ketty Chamlian, President, CEO
Chamlian Enterprises, Inc.
2360 South Orange Ave.
Fresno, California 93725
Phone: (559) 233-1765

California Green Solutions Newsletter -- Mar. 2007

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| green building | facilities management | landfills |


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