Reused & Recycled Materials in LEED

How are recycled materials part of LEED certification? Recycled material is waste that has been turned into a new product. Reused, or salvaged, material is “waste” that is used again in its original form.

Free LEED Green Associate ExamThe main difference between recycled and reused is whether or not the material is used for its original purpose. For example, a carpet that is installed at a project site, used for a number of years, then ripped out and installed as a carpet in a new project site would be considered salvaged or reused. Carpet that is installed at a project site, then ripped out and re-manufactured into wall insulation would be considered recycled.

Both recycled and reused (or salvaged) materials are considered sustainable because they decrease landfill waste, reduce the need for raw materials, lower environmental impacts and energy use, and reduce air and water pollution (from incineration and landfills).

Recycled Materials and LEED

Projects that use building materials with recycled content can earn LEED points. Materials and Resources Credit 4, Recycled Content grants 1 point to projects with 10% recycled content (based on cost) and 2 points to those with 20% recycled content.

The calculation for recycled content is post-consumer content plus 1/2 pre-consumer content.

Post-consumer content is, by USGBC’s definition, “waste material generated by households or by commercial, industrial and institutional facilities in their role as end-users of the product, which can no longer be used for its intended purpose". This is basically consumer waste. Examples include newspapers, construction and demolition debris, plastic bottles, soup cans, and steel.

On the other hand, pre-consumer content is defined by USGBC as "material diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process". This really means that is is manufacturing waste. Examples include shavings, sawdust, walnut shells, fly ash, over‐issue publications, textile clippings, and obsolete inventories.

Clearly, LEED values post-consumer content twice as much.

Examples of Recycled Materials for LEED

1) California Paint Recycling, Inc. manufactures “Global-Green” paint, which contains anywhere from 25% to 100% post- or pre-consumer recycled content. They contain low VOCs, and since they use recycled materials, they contain 85% less embodied energy than conventional paints made from virgin materials.

The Global-Green line, which comes in a wide variety of paint colors (and custom colors on request) contains primers, sealers, exterior or interior finishes, and specialty products, such as low and no VOC caulking, sealants, wood stains, finishes, etc.

2) Second Glass, a company headquartered in Portland, Oregon, manufactures glass products from salvaged damaged and junk windshields. Since the products use recycled windshields, they prevent waste from entering the landfill and also cut energy use for manufacturing, transportation and mining. The company offers walls, lighting, shower enclosures, dividers, and other products made from the recycled glass.

3) Pennsylvania-based Capri Cork manufactures heavy traffic commercial flooring made from post-consumer recycled tires and EPDM rubber granules. One of its unique, textural lines of flooring, “Medley”, also contains pre-consumer recycled cork.

Capri Cork’s products are Floorscore certified, which means that they emit low levels of VOCs.

Available in thicknesses of 4, 6, 8, and 9 mm (and 3.2 & 12 mm by request), the flooring comes in a variety of colors, though custom colors can be specially ordered.

Reused Materials and LEED

LEED MR Credit 3, Materials Reuse, awards points to projects for using salvaged materials. One point is awarded if 5% of the building materials are salvaged (based on cost), and two points are awarded if 10% are salvaged.

This credit intends to reduce waste and burdens on landfills, while also limiting environmental impacts by avoiding the use of virgin materials.

Projects can also earn points for reusing building materials in MR Credit 1.1, Building Reuse - Maintain Existing Walls, Floor and Roof (1-3 points) and MR Credit 1.2, Building Reuse - Maintain Interior Non-Structural Elements (1 point). According to the reference guide, both of these credits aim to “To extend the life cycle of existing building stock, conserve resources, retain cultural resources, reduce waste and reduce environmental impacts of new buildings as they relate to materials manufacturing and transport.”

For Maintain Existing Walls, Floors and Roof, the project must maintain the existing building structure and envelope. The project is awarded 1 point for reusing 55% of the building structure and envelope, 2 points for 75% reuse, and 3 points for 95% reuse.

The Maintain Interior Non-Structural Elements credit requires that the project use existing interior nonstructural elements (such as interior walls and floor coverings) for 50% of the area of the completed building, including additions.

Examples of Reused Materials for LEED

1) Illinois-based Vintage Brick Salvage reclaims bricks from demolition contractors (mostly in the Midwest and Eastern United States), then resells them.
The company sells three types of reclaimed brick products:

•Thin Brick: Bricks are sliced and used as tile for walls, floors and walks.
• Common Brick: The company sells a variety of these bricks, which are the most common. Vintage Brick Salvage sells a selection of these bricks for reuse, including Old Chicago commons in pink and buff, Milwaukee cream city brick, Indiana and Carolina adobe brick, and St. Louis red brick.
• Paving Brick: These bricks are meant for paving streets and sidewalks. The type of bricks are always changing based on supply.

2) Oregon-based Viridian Reclaimed Wood, founded by Joe Mitchoff and Pierce Henley, salvage wood waste from shipping ports, old docks, abandoned buildings, and wine casts. It resells these products as kiln-dried, precision milled flooring, furniture, paneling, and decking. Their wood is all FSC-certified, and all reclaimed and manufactured in America (mostly Oregon).

Viridian receives a steady shipment of salvaged wood to their warehouse, which means that customers do not face the same problems that they typically do when purchasing from other salvaging companies with inconsistent supplies.


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