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Construction Initiative

EPA Region 8 Building, Denver, CO

EPA’s Region 8 building in Denver, CO, has earned is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Gold rating and contains recycled industrial materials through the structure. More information about the building.

View and print this brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 1.8MB, about PDF)

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The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Construction Initiative (CI) is a collaborative, public-private sector effort to increase the recycling and reuse of industrial materials in building and transportation construction projects across the nation. The Initiative increases awareness of the potential value and unique abilities of these materials to replace virgin materials in numerous construction applications. To reach this goal, EPA is working with the Federal Highway Administration and the Industrial Resources Council (comprised of representatives from seven industry associations), to provide technical assistance to building owners, real estate developers, architects, general contractors, and transportation officials.

The Construction Initiative's emphasis on using recycled industrial materials in building and transportation projects in place of virgin materials is a prime example of EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Program in action.

Industrial Materials and their Benefits

Industrial materials include coal combustion products, spent foundry sand, construction and demolition materials, iron and steel slags, scrap tires, and pulp/paper mill residuals. Many of these materials have engineering, chemical, and physical properties that make them valuable resources, but are often disposed as waste. Recycling industrial materials in construction embodies green design by conserving natural resources and reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with virgin materials. In addition, industrial materials are often less expensive than the virgin materials they replace. As the demand for construction materials continues to rise in the US and abroad, designing with recycled industrial materials can make good economic sense for project owners and builders.

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Value to Construction Applications

Industrial materials can be recycled in nearly all aspects of construction for buildings, roads, and other structures. In some cases, they can even improve the quality of the products in which they are used. For example, using coal fly ash as a partial replacement for portland cement enhances the strength, durability, and workability of concrete. Common uses for coal fly ash, ground granulated blast furnace slag, and spent foundry sand, include concrete, road embankments, and flowable fill. Concrete and asphalt rubble can be crushed and used as road base, aggregate in pavements, structural fill, or drainage material. Roofing shingles can be shredded and recycled in pavement, replacing costly virgin asphalt.

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Green Building and the Construction Initiative

Green, or sustainable, building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, operation, maintenance, and renovation. Designing with industrial materials is a key component of green building and can earn points in green building certification programs, such as the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® green building rating system.

Industrial Materials Recycling and LEED® Credits Points
Using construction and building products containing recycled content
Reusing building materials and products
Diverting C&D materials from disposal
Using materials extracted, processed, and manufactured locally
Total Possible Points

Green construction also can involve a variety of other sustainability areas, including air quality, recycling, green purchasing, water stewardship, and energy efficiency. The CI works in concert with other EPA programs that support these areas. The Destiny USA project, is a prime example of the kind of multimedia assistance EPA can offer. For more information on these programs that support green building, visit EPA’s green building website.

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A Construction Initiative Success

Destiny USA, a major commercial development in Syracuse, NY, will be built with recycled industrial materials. In 2006, EPA contacted the owner and developers of Destiny to discuss the environmental benefits of industrial materials recycling, as well as other green building practices. Later that year, Destiny USA and EPA entered into a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU identifies Destiny’s intent to pursue several conservation and pollution prevention-based programs and initiatives as part of the design, construction, and operation of the complex. Since the signing of the MOU, EPA has provided technical assistance to Destiny that has resulted in several environmental accomplishments:

Destiny USA has joined EPA’s WasteWise and also has committed to joining EPA’s WaterSense and ENERGY STAR® programs. More information Exit EPA on the Destiny project.

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