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Minimizing Construction Waste, Maximizing Profits*

The cost of construction materials has reportedly increased by up to 18% recently, and more than 30% in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The cost of steel, lumber, concrete, and other key materials have had their effect on construction budgets and profits.

The rising cost of materials is being driven by a number of factors, including:

  • Increased demand: The construction industry is booming, as the economy grows and more people need housing and other infrastructure. This increased demand is putting a strain on the supply of materials, driving up prices.
  • Lingering supply chain disruptions: The pandemic disrupted global supply chains, making it more difficult and expensive to get materials to where they need to be. Conflicts abroad haven’t helped matters.
  • Inflation: As the cost of goods and services increases, so too does the cost of materials used in construction.
The average builder may not be able to do much about global economics, but there may be ways to offset higher prices and short supplies by getting the most out of materials and minimizing waste.

Wasted Materials, Profits, Space and Time.

The nearly $3 trillion construction industry accounts for about 40% of all raw materials used in the United States. It also accounts for about 13% of all landfill waste.

The waste generated by the construction industry can have a major impact on profits. According to a study by the Construction Industry Institute, construction waste can add up to 10% to the cost of a project. This means that a project that costs $1 million could have $100,000 in waste.

In addition to the financial costs to builders, construction waste also has a negative impact on the environment. When materials are sent to landfills, they contribute to air and water pollution, as well as shared costs for disposal infrastructure and labor. They also take up valuable space and eat up time and money with logistics.

A study by the Construction Industry Institute found that a 10% reduction in material waste can lead to a 2% increase in profits. Prefabricated materials can reduce on-site waste by up to 80%. Training workers on efficient material use can reduce waste by up to 50%. Technology to improve material efficiency can save up to 10% on materials costs.

Waste may always be a part of construction, but dealing with it differently could produce bottom-line benefits. Consider the following ideas …
  • Proper planning and scheduling: More careful project planning and scheduling can ensure that materials are ordered and delivered on time and in the right quantities. This might help reduce waste and improve efficiency.
  • Proper workmanship: By ensuring that construction workers follow proper procedures, the amount of waste can be minimized. This includes training workers on how to handle materials properly and how to avoid damage.
  • Using waste-reducing materials: There are many materials available that are designed to reduce waste. For example, prefabricated materials can be used to reduce on-site waste, and recycled materials can be used to reduce the overall environmental impact of a project.
  • Training workers on efficient material use: Workers should be trained on how to use materials efficiently. This includes training on how to measure and cut materials accurately, how to avoid waste, and how to properly dispose of leftover materials.
  • Recycling and reuse: By recycling and reusing materials, the amount of waste that goes to landfills can be reduced. This can also save money.
  • Tool maintenance: According to one study, construction sites bear annual losses of up to $1 billion due to tool malfunctions. Keep tools in good repair and get the most out of them instead of throwing them in the trash..
  • Communication: By ensuring that there is good communication between all stakeholders in a construction project, the amount of waste can be reduced. This includes communicating the specific materials that will be used, the desired changes to the scope of work, and other relevant information.
  • Using new technology: There are a number of technological solutions that can help to improve material efficiency in construction. For example, 3D printing can be used to create custom parts that reduce waste, and drones can be used to inspect construction sites for potential waste.

By taking steps to improve efficiency by minimizing materials waste, construction companies can save money and time, and improve their bottom lines and the environment.



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