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Home / 2010 Newsmakers of the Year / Setting new standards

Setting new standards

Big Diverter, New Construction

Sun shines on the new Yellowjacket Union at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. (Photos submitted by the University of Wisconsin-Superior)

Sun shines on the new Yellowjacket Union at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. (Photos submitted by the University of Wisconsin-Superior)

The new student center at the University of Wisconsin-Superior was more than just a building project; it was a test of the state’s construction recycling capabilities.

The 85,000-square-foot, two-story Yellowjacket Union was one of five pilot projects undertaken by the Wisconsin Division of State Facilities to test whether recycling is feasible on state projects.

“The department wanted to recycle on its projects, but it was concerned that they might not be able to recycle successfully on projects statewide,” said Ralph McCall, senior project manager with WasteCap Resource Solutions Inc., Milwaukee.

The state aimed for a 50 percent recycling goal on projects in Kenosha, Whitewater, Madison, Stevens Point and Superior. State officials weren’t confident, however, the goal could be achieved in more rural areas of the state, McCall said.

Crews tear down the old Rothwell Student Center at the University of Wisconsin-Superior to make room for a new student union. Project organizers managed to divert 92.45 percent of construction waste during the demolition and construction.

Crews tear down the old Rothwell Student Center at the University of Wisconsin-Superior to make room for a new student union. Project organizers managed to divert 92.45 percent of construction waste during the demolition and construction.

As the most remote project, Superior was most worrisome, he said.

“In order to recycle you have to have markets,” McCall said, “places for the materials to go.”

Project organizers on the Superior project passed the test with flying colors, however, managing to divert 92.45 percent of construction waste and setting a new statewide standard for onsite recycling. Not only did project managers find outlets for the wood, metal, cardboard, concrete, asphalt and drywall that came from demolition of the old student union, they also worked aggressively to educate contractors about proper waste disposal, said Wally Johnson, project manager with Workshop Architects Inc., Milwaukee.

“When a new trade would come on site, (officials) would walk them around the site and they’d explain, ‘We’re monitoring this, so spread the word,’” Johnson said.

The proactive approach appears to have worked. The project is on track for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification, McCall said.

A mandate was approved in January requiring all state building projects of $5 million or greater and all demolition projects, regardless of size, recycle at least 50 percent of construction materials.

“The state of Wisconsin has made a commitment to do this, and that sends a clear message to the contractors,” Johnson said. “It’s a good way of doing business. And it makes sense. It’s just a different way of thinking about projects. Why not do this?”

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