300 Tons of Old Building: How Our Demolition is Surprisingly Sustainable

A set of brick buildings once stood just west of the Emergency Department, but today that area is a flat empty space growing bigger by the hour.

The buzz of demolition activity is full steam ahead. Excavators roar, moving heavy piles of old building fragments, scrap metal and concrete to make way for a new and improved ED building.
The takedown of the structures that began in March was swift. But have you ever wondered where all of that debris goes?

Thanks to a joint effort by the University and Turner Pike Construction, the vast majority of waste produced by this large-scale takedown is being recycled and diverted away from landfill. When you picture hundreds of tons of waste, this is nothing short of remarkable.

“The methodical demolition is quite meticulous,” said Robert Maloney, project coordinator for University Planning & Project Management. “Each wire, pipe and conduit had to be carefully removed.”
After waste is divided into piles, a large magnet passes over them to remove any remaining metal.

Out of 340 tons of construction waste, 301 tons (just over 88 percent) has been recycled to date. Much more material is expected to follow suit as work continues.

What’s in The Waste Stream

The building demolition site on Elmwood, where the future emergency department tower will stand.
The building demolition site on Elmwood, where the future emergency department tower will stand.

At the beginning of the year, the project team aimed to divert at least 50 percent of construction and demolition waste—things like concrete, steel, copper, and wood.

Materials that are not recycled include asbestos-containing material (all of which was removed six months ago, before demolition began), some plastics and other scraps that can’t be reused.

Concrete is ground down to pebble size material and used to make roads, or even things like pavers sold in home and garden stores. Steel is recycled in the scrap metal market. Much of our non-recyclable material goes to High Acres Landfill in Perinton.

Transformers that were once used in the now-gone transformer building were shipped, fully intact, overseas where they will be used in India. This is another example of how project leaders are being intentional in their efforts to avoid waste.

This cleanup comes before the digging of the building foundation, which will be followed by mass excavation later this year. Since this is the University’s largest project ever—Maloney says this is a good opportunity to prioritize what’s important.

“This is good for all of us,” said Maloney (pictured above with recovered copper from the building site). “It means some cost reduction, but we’re also trying to build in a smart and sustainable way for future generations.”

By the Numbers

Most of the waste generated by demolition and construction for the Strong Expansion Project is being recycled and reused.

Metals: 133 tons
Concrete & masonry: 168 tons
Landfill waste: 32 tons
Total waste recycled: 301 tons; or 88 percent

Follow Along!
See regularly-updated birds eye views of the site on the Strong Expansion Project intranet site.

Article and Photos Courtesy of Bethany Bushen, Sr. Communications Associate, University of Rochester Medical Center

Pictured Top: Robert Maloney, project coordinator for University Planning & Project Management, stands in front of clean copper scraps ready for recycling.