How to Sustainably Break Up & Dispose of Concrete
Tips & Tricks to Maintaining a Green-Friendly Site
One of the challenges at any construction site is in disposal. Demolishing, building, and everything else in-between creates a lot of excess. Not only are there numerous federal and local laws that dictate how to dispose of this material, but you're doing yourself a disservice by treating it all as waste. Much of what you're left with on a job site can be re-used. One great example is concrete, which can be a costly material to haul away. However, breaking up concrete can be a sustainable practice that can save you money.
Today, Sustaining a Green Job Site is More Important than Ever
Unchecked construction is a race to the bottom. Instead, our approach to building infrastructure should be an inclusive process that takes into account the community and ecology of our surroundings. Slapping down buildings is easy—it's much harder to think about the implications of your actions, minimize their effects, and create something that not only belongs but will profoundly add to the community in which it's been built.
Sustainability is the future. Today, builders are seeing the writing on the wall—clients want their projects to be eco-friendly facets to a community. Most of all, they want their buildings to broker positive attention, be they retail, commercial, or residential spaces. And they want the methodology of sustainability to encapsulate every stage of the process. Disposal of materials can be a challenge. But it can be less painful if you simply think out-of-the-box. The adage of another man's trash is another man's treasure most certainly applies here. Someone in your community wants that material, provided you collect it thoughtfully so they can easily take it off your hands.
The Best Tools for Breaking Concrete
Depending on the thickness, you'll want to go about breaking up concrete differently. The last thing you want to do is use the wrong tool, which is an ineffective and exhausting use of your time. And even worse—an overpowered tool will leave a mess that will be harder, if not impossible, to gather up for re-use.
It used to be that smaller concrete jobs required old fashioned muscle and a sledgehammer to get the job done. Using a power tool for that amount of work would have been overkill—the cost and time needed to get such a tool on-site would far outweigh the benefits of using it. However, there's an innovative tool that'll do these small to medium-sized jobs for you. It's the gas-powered jackhammer. It doesn't require an air compressor, so it's ultra-portable. And it produces less noise and vibration than its pneumatic counterpart. Best of all, you can find it at an equipment rental yard, load it onto your commercial pickup truck, and have it on-site all in one morning.
Not much else is thicker than 6 inches, save for highways or other large scale infrastructure. For those types of jobs, you're looking at large equipment like excavators and hydraulic hammers.
Minimize the Cost of Disposal Using a Community-Driven Approach
When your disposal process is eco-friendly, it's not just a "feel good" gesture. It's an economic, community-driven approach to construction. It's the kind of detail that will get you innovative clients and even save you money in the end.
After all, you're well aware of the mounting cost of hauling away construction material. Each truckload makes a dent in your profit margins. Instead of paying a hauler, think about the community you're building in. There's more than likely people that would be interested in those materials. And if you find an interested party, they'd probably be willing to haul away those materials free-of-cost.
People Are Doing Amazing Things with Reclaimed Materials
Don't be afraid to take a more piecemeal approach to disposal, either. Many members of your community will be interested in carefully-broken concrete for their projects. Something as simple as a well-organized pile and a few handmade signs could rid you of your waste materials in just a few days.
Clever people are doing all kinds of great things with reclaimed materials. People are also turning busted concrete into makeshift cobblestones, raised garden beds, and terraced gardens. This home-guide dives into those projects in more depth.
Did you know that concrete can even be re-used? Pulverized concrete, known as aggregate, can be mixed into new concrete, giving you more for less. That same aggregate can also be used in place of gravel for drainage.
Sustainability is Important to Our Future
Our futures depend on our ability to think of clever ways to sustain ourselves on what we've already produced—concrete is no exception. Construction is all about new beginnings. But the greatest things come from thoughtful origins. Sustainability is important for our future, so we must incorporate it into our industry and make it an organic part of the building process.
Chris Galloway is the owner of US Hammer Jackhammers and Postdrivers [www.ushammer.com]. A lifelong contractor, he runs US Hammer and Pioneer Machinery, his rental equipment company, from Woodland, California.