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Your Building is a Bank Account


Building owners are taught to view waste as an inconvenience. The waste stream keeps flowing, and if anything disrupts the “get it out of here” model, we tend to view that with the same disdain as a clogged drain. Here’s the challenge: material has value. As recycling markets gain speed, recyclable material gains value. By thinking of your building as a bank account, the concept of “waste management” becomes a whole new game: asset management.

Extending the idea of maximizing value to items in the waste stream, the best way to manage costs is to step in front of the consumption patterns of a typical hotel and recognize that a lot of those assets really have some value. Instead of assuming that all removal should follow the same path, categorizing the “assets” may go a long way to lowering the disposal bill.

To reroute your waste stream back into useful life, a few simple rules will help the building owner win big points with the accounting department:

The Bulkiest Waste is Food

Any hospitality provider can confirm that kitchens generate a lot of scrap. The cornerstone to catering is: leftovers are a lot better than running out of food. This builds in “over catering,” adding to waste at the end of the evening. By finding a way for the kitchen to separate food scrap from other waste, the building is one step closer to a far lower disposal bill. Work with the local state Department of Environmental Protection to compost food waste.

Find a New Home for Old Furniture

When a hotel gets a furniture upgrade, a furniture liquidator can turn the old furniture into income. But what about local charities, churches, and schools? Why not donate furniture, turning the local beneficiary into an advocate for the business. It’s a great way to extend your reach into the community, and it’s a tax benefit as well.

Paper is a Revenue Stream

Many recyclers will offer to pickup paper waste for free. Why is that? They get paid for it! It’s a great idea to know how much revenue you are turning over to your recycler. How many newspapers does the building purchase daily? How many reams of paper does the procurement office purchase in a month? These figures will give you a great estimate of how much paper is in your waste stream.

Recycling and Salvage Involves Everyone

It’s very true that people do what they’re paid to do. This goes without saying for an up-and-running green program. But for those just starting their conservation, is staff involved in the planning process? How about the supply chain? Has the procurement department asked suppliers to reduce packaging or take back pallets when they drop off new supplies? A few simple questions will let your staff and suppliers know that the program is real and lasting.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

What is the real cost of cheap hardware? For an architect or contractor, it means that building materials that are not as durable are not worth salvaging when a space is disassembled. When making decisions on how to decorate a lobby or suite, quality pays for itself.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

When buying materials or building systems, make sure that the facilities staff understands the maintenance schedule and sticks to it. If replacement parts are hard to procure, it’s more likely that the maintenance schedule will lapse. The purchase of equipment should be accompanied by a maintenance relationship and budgeting.

Designing for Disassembly

When it is finally time to renovate, make sure that the contractor assembles the space with disassembly in mind: overuse of adhesives preclude any future use of those materials. Use of compound materials means that reuse is nearly impossible, unless the material can be used as a unit (like an insulated panel).

Amy Bauman is director of business development for Somerville, Mass.-based greenGoat. The nonprofit consulting firm specializes in helping architects and contractors find new homes for old building materials, delivering a hefty tax advantage in the process. To find out more, visit greenGoat.