The National Association of Home Builders has collected data nationally and estimates that the construction of a “typical” 2,000 square foot house generates 8,000 pounds of waste, occupying roughly 153 cubic feet of landfill space.This equates to an average four pounds of waste per conditioned space.Since the Barn House is approximately 3,400 square foot, the average amount of waste if constructed in the normal way would be 13,600 pounds.Our goal is to keep the waste going to landfills at less than 1,500 pounds.This goal is much easier to say than to achieve, especially when we have to chase all of the trades around with reminders, begging, screaming, picking up after them and a lot of creativity.
The easy to remember moniker of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is a succinct way of dealing with waste.The other is the creative concepts talked in the book Cradle to Cradle.The views expressed in Cradle to Cradle are similar to those found in nature, where “waste” is a cyclical function and not a linear construct.In nature when a bear scats in the woods, that scat becomes another organism’s opportunity, whether it be insects, another animal utilizing the bears waste or it becomes part of the soil as a nutrient.Thus the waste comes back around and is used again.Man is the only animal that produces waste in a linear fashion whereby trash ends up going to a landfill and just sits as true waste.
To begin with, all construction waste was separated until we got creative enough to figure out a use for it.Even when put into the onsite dumpster, we kept it in labeled bags waiting for that stoke of genius or lousy idea that allowed us not to relegate it to a landfill.
Waste is separated until we can figure out what to do with it
Below are some of the ways we tried to deal with the construction waste, especially where we did not succeed very well in having some of the trades reduce their waste.
It is incredible how much drywall is actually wasted.I have heard that up to 25% of the drywall purchased for a residential building is actually wasted.Our first step in planning for reusing the drywall was to purchase traditional Lime drywall. After the walls were completed and the pallets of unused pieces of drywall were collected, Sandy had her forestry interns spread the waste drywall pieces onto a clover field that was being revitalized.She then drove her tractor over the drywall pieces with a tiller, (yeah, you read that right) chopping the drywall up and releasing the lime into the soil as a soil additive.Sandy has added lime to her numerous wildlife clover patches on a rotating basis for many years, so adding lime was something that was going to be done anyway- this was just a creative way to recycle the drywall, till her field and lime it at the same time.
Yes, the picture above looks like we are just littering but the drywall is 100% lime plus recycled paper on the front and back. The lime will dissolve into the soil and help adjust the ph level and the paper will decompose.
Sandy is using a tiller to cut the drywall into very small pieces and to almost pulverize the lime into this revitalized clover patch for wildlife.
The picture to the left shows the same littered fields that Sandy tilled the lime drywall into.The clover is starting to come up about three weeks later.
First off, all wood for this project was grown, harvested and milled on Green Woodlands property.The only exceptions were the wood around the windows, which came from an FSC certified forest and a layer of borate treated wood that was placed between the Durisol block foundation and the first floor timber beams.Our first goal was to mill the wood to the dimensions that we would be using, the next was utilizing as much of the cut pieces of wood in the construction as possible.The wood that was left over was separated into a number of categories:
1)The first and most preferable were those pieces that were large enough to use in future building projects or donated for other people’s building projects.
2)Next was dividing the wood into softwood and hardwood species.Hardwood species can be chipped and used under the heritage apple trees as mulch, therefore returning them to the forest floor to reintroduce nutrients back into the soil.The softwood species like pine and spruce are a tad too acidic to be putting under fruit trees.The softwood species can be chipped and used as runoff berms to control soil erosion and will eventually return to soil.
3)Kindling and stove firewood.Since we use wood in our masonry heater, our wood boiler and various cabins on the property, any extra wood will save us from cutting and splitting cordwood.
4)We have a number of neighbors that do sugaring (maple sugar production) who use scrap wood for their maple syrup boiler furnaces.The sugaring is a community event and everyone that participates contributes, so the scrap wood will help produce some real New Hampshire maple syrup which we all know is far superior to Vermont made.
5)Creative use of wood- the cherry braces in the timber frame were not exactly “waste wood” from the building but in a traditional logging operation they would have been considered either chip wood or left to rot on the forest floor.We were able to use these character pieces of wood not only as structural braces but art pieces as well.
These pieces of cherry wood with burls typically would have been thrown away but they are not only structurally sound, they also add character to the timber frame. We sliced the log to show off the "live" edge as well as show off the heart wood and cambium layer of the log.
Our insulation was for the most part sprayed in by Foam Tech so there was very little waste but what little waste existed was put into bags and recycled into a friend’s attic to add to his insulation.
It seemed like every time we turned around something else was being delivered in a cardboard box, whether it be the windows, toilets, tubs or supplies.It only takes a couple of minutes to flatten boxes down and the cardboard makes an excellent under layer for wood chip trails or trails going through a garden.We learned this tip from D-acres, a local organic farm.The cardboard is covered with wood chips and helps to prevent weeds and grass from growing up through the wood chip layer and eventually decomposes and becomes soil itself.
Styrofoam Packaging Material
Styrofoam packaging material came with the above cardboard boxes often and we are still trying to come up with a use for this, it does not weigh very much but it does take up a lot of space and is not good for the environment.
We had some extra foundation blocks which were utilized by our forester for a building project of his.
Since we were milling and planning our own lumber the sawdust piles were actually quite large.This saw dust was given to local farmers for use in bedding for pigs.
The Barn House is located on the original site of an old barn that was probably built in the 1800’s but by the time we acquired the property, the barn was unsalvageable.The shallow foundation of the old barn was still there and nearby there was a large mound of rocks from another building that had been bulldozed (before our time) into a heap.We wanted to salvage the rocks from both of these old buildings.We used these rocks and a bunch more from the property for building the masonry heater, the steps in the front, side and back of the building as well as retaining walls into the lower level bank barn part of the building and around the heritage apple trees that we did not want to be affected from the construction of the Barn House.When you are working with rocks, it is kind of like putting together a puzzle except that all of the pieces are not used.Quite frankly, we had a lot of extra rocks.During the 1800’s, New England farmers utilized rocks they harvested from their pastures and roads to build thousands of miles of stone walls.I use the word harvested because being in the granite state, rocks tend to grow each year so we need to find a use for this obviously durable and in NH plentiful natural resource.