Regal effort: Washington’s King County helps contractors establish recycling methods

Regal effort: Washington’s King County helps contractors establish recycling methods – Construction Project

Theresa Koppang

Efforts by municipal and county governments to encourage construction site recycling are continuing in King County, Wash. The county government is actively working with area companies through its Construction Works Program, which is co-sponsored by the King County Solid Waste Division and the Business and Industry Resource Venture in Seattle, Washington.

As a regional government, King County has worked for several years promoting construction site recycling through its Construction Works Program. This includes providing assistance to construction companies that want to save money and resources.

With construction waste comprising nearly 25 percent of the total waste stream in King County and a strong infrastructure for recycling most common construction materials, many opportunities are available to promote the environmental practices of local construction companies. The increasing popularity of the green building movement continues to influence projects in the area as well, with construction site recycling often being the cornerstone of a company’s green building policy.


One recent Constuction Works effort took place during the construction of a new fire station in the City of Issaquah in King County, which achieved a 94 percent recycling rate and a savings of’40 percent on the estimated disposal bill.

The general contractor on the project, Sierra Construction, based in Woodinville, Wash., has raised the bar for environmental building through practices such as using recycled-content materials in more than one-third of the interior and exterior elements, including metal roofing and rubber flooring.

Further, excavated soils were taken to a nearby housing development where they were combined with compost to create a topsoil mix and then returned to the fire station site. Sierra Construction is the newest member in a select group of contractors in King County who, through King County’s Construction Works Program, are realizing the economic and environmental benefits of recycling and using recycled-content building materials.

All public and private, commercial and residential projects are eligible for recognition by the Construction Works Program. Several projects have achieved notable recycling amounts and been recognized by King County’s Construction Works Program, falling into different sectors of the building market.


* The King County Regional Communications and Emergency Coordination Center recycled 75 percent of its leftover material, saving roughly 20 percent on hauling and disposal fees. The contractor was W.G. Clark Construction Co., Seattle.

* King County achieved an 84 percent recycling rate in the demolition phase of the Central Atlantic Base parking garage and bus parking project. The project required demolition of two city blocks. As a result of early planning and coordination with adjacent projects, the project easily achieved the LEED[TM] Construction Waste Management credit (MR Credit 2.0). The lead contractor was Iconco Demolition and Salvage, Seattle.

* King Street Center, home to 1,400 county employees, achieved an 80 percent recycling rate, including large amounts of concrete, soil and granite during the demolition phase. The lead contractor was Lease Crutcher Lewis, Seattle.

* King County’s Kingdome, a domed football and baseball stadium, yeas imploded to make way for a new stadium, leaving enormous amounts of concrete and steel rebar to be recycled. The project achieved an impressive 90 percent recycling rate. The lead contractor was Turner Construction Co., New York.


* With 10 active housing developments, and plans to sell 1,800 new homes next year, Quadrant Homes, Bellevue, Wash., generates thousands of tons of scrap construction materials per month. But thanks to a comprehensive and aggressive recycling program, only a portion of that waste goes to the landfill. Collectively, Quadrant Homes has an average recycling rate of 70 percent.

According to a Construction and Demolition Waste Characterization and Recycling Industry Profile report prepared by the King County Solid Waste Division in 2002, the individual recycling efforts of construction firms have added up to an impressive overall recycling rate for construction materials in King County, estimated at 65 percent.

To qualify for membership in Construction Works, contractors must commit to fulfilling certain recycling and waste-reduction criteria. Specifically, a recycling rate of at least 60 percent must he achieved, and the use of six building materials containing recycled-content must be used.

A plan to include sub-contractors and vendors in the effort is also required. By doing so, builders consistently report dramatic savings as well as making their projects eligible to receive a range of benefits by becoming members. Benefits include customized technical assistance to set up or increase recycling and waste reduction, public recognition, listing on the county’s Web site, hardhat decals for crews and jobsite banners. Members also receive a nomination for a county environmental award bestowed to local businesses on Earth Day.


Construction Works membership makes it easy to qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Materials and Resources credit 2.0. Many projects would be eligible to earn two points in this category by achieving a 75 percent landfill diversion rate.

A 50 percent diversion rate is necessary to earn one point. As green building becomes more of a mainstream requirement by building owners, contractors are being asked to work with designers to deliver projects with environmental features that include the use of salvaged items and recycled-content building materials. In addition to contributing to broader environmental goals such as LEED, contractors report additional benefits of recycling, including good public relations and a cleaner and safer work site.

Those who wish to learn more about construction recycling and green building in Washington State can visit King County’s Web site at: greenworks, and click on “Construction Works.”

The author is a program manager for the King County Solid Waste Division and has worked with the construction industry for nearly 10 years on jobsite recycling issues. Comments on or inquiries about the Construction Works program can be directed toward

Building Materials Recycling

Rates in King County (2002)



Wood 60-66%

Concrete >95%

Gypsum 25-30%

Roofing 5-10%

Glass <1%

Carpet/Padding < 11%

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