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Waltham, Mass. Builders Recognized by EPA for Contributions to Green Building Design


Four structural engineers from a Waltham, Mass. firm were recognized as part of a national EPA effort to develop cutting-edge green building ideas to reduce environmental and energy impacts from buildings.

The awardees, Mark Webster, Dirk Kestner, James Parker and Matthew Johnson, are engineers at the Waltham-based firm, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc. Their design for a Reusable structural floor system was selected because of the potential of reducing the amount of waste material at the end of a building’s useful life.

The Mass. engineers were among 22 groups recognized as part of EPA’s inaugural Lifecycle Building Challenge competition. Ideas from the design contest will jumpstart the building industry to help reuse more of the 100 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris sent each year to landfills in the U.S.

Lifecycle building maximizes material recovery to reverse the trend of disposing of large quantities of construction and demolition debris in landfills. Reusing building components also reduces energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing and transporting materials.

Specifically, the Waltham engineers developed a “Deconstructable and Reusable Composite Slab” that can be used in a building’s design and construction, and which is reusable at the end of the building’s life. The composite component system uses specialized bolts, serrated clamps, and cast-in channels to create a more easily disassembled system, allowing reuse of the composite slab.

A serious problem with conventional composite slabs is that they are not reusable at the end of the building’s life. The team developed a composite slab system that maintains the efficiency benefits offered by composite action, while adding near 100 percent reusability. The structure allows the slab and beam to work together to resist bending due to floor loads. The size of the steel beam can be reduced by over 30 percent providing both economic and environmental benefits.

In the U.S., buildings consume 60 percent of total materials flow (excluding food and fuel) and account for 33 percent of the solid waste stream. Building renovation and demolition accounts for 91 percent of the construction and demolition debris generated each year, while new construction accounts for only 9 percent. It is estimated that between 2000 to 2030, 27 percent of existing buildings will be replaced and 50 percent of the total building stock will be constructed.

These issues can be addressed by planning for a building or building component’s eventual deconstruction or adaptation. By creating building components that can be easily recovered and reused, materials are kept at their highest value, resulting in reduced consumption of energy and resources.

The “Lifecycle Building Challenge” is a partnership between the U.S. EPA, the Building Materials Reuse Association, the American Institute of Architects and West Coast Green. The Challenge invited professionals and students nationwide to submit designs and ideas that support cost-effective disassembly and anticipate future use of building materials.


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