Urgent Support for Residential Building Material Diversion Amendments to Code by DC Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee

Dear friends, today we have are collaborating with the DC Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee by petition of our friend Jim Schulman, Treasurer of the Building Materials Re-use Association.

Attached (and below) is a final version of the DC Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee’s sign-on letter regarding minor proposed changes to the Residential Building Code that encourage reuse. Don’t miss the FAQ’s on the 2nd page. Our proposed amendments will be reviewed by the DC Construction Codes Coordinating Board on the morning of Thursday July 6th, so we hope to have amassed a bunch of relevant sign-ons by the day prior. Please distribute it today to folks you know and trust that work or have worked in the world of green construction or real estate in DC and would like to see the District move closer to zero waste. We could use a bunch of sign-ons, especially from organization representatives. Thanks!

Following is the sign-on letter… you can also find it by following this link:


July 05, 2017

To: Jill Stern, Chair and Members

The DC Construction Codes Coordinating Board

Re: Support for residential building material diversion amendments


Dear Chairperson Stern and other CCCB members,

The DC Residential Building Code, which applies to one-and-two family dwellings (single-family homes, townhouses, & duplexes), currently contains no stipulations regarding the reduction of construction and demolition debris. As part of an effort to ensure that DC is able to meet its waste reduction goals as laid out in the Sustainable DC plan, the DC Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee and the Building Materials Reuse Association, in consultation with the Residential Technical Advisory Group (RESTAG) of the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), has drafted amendments to the Residential Building Code. If adopted, the language will introduce residential builders and owners to the financial and public health benefits of reducing the amount of construction and demolition debris that currently ends up in incinerators and landfills or is dumped in stream valleys.

The proposed amendments to the Residential Building Code do the following:

  • Add “resource conservation” to the initial “Intent” section of the code
  • Define the terms “reuse” & “recycling”
  • For new construction, substantial renovation, and demolition projects (except for those that generate less than 500 pounds of waste), require:
  1. Reuse of a minimum of 5% of total non-hazardous waste by weight or volume, or
  2. Recycling of a minimum of 50% of total non-hazardous waste
  • Painted materials removed from buildings older than 1978 shall not be eligible for reuse or recycling unless tested and verified to be free of lead paint, or tested and tagged in a lasting manner to assure materials transferred off-site are properly handled with respect to lead hazards.

If adopted, these proposed amendments will reduce construction waste hauling time and tipping fees – both of financial benefit to builders and home owners. Those Contractors and their subs who don’t already currently salvage materials for reuse or recycling will be encouraged to earn money through salvaged material sales and/or obtain tax deductions for the donation of salvaged materials. Compliance on many jobs could be achieved merely by gently removing existing doors, cabinets, and appliances and requesting a pick-up from a community organization. As more used residential building materials enter the marketplace, high-value, job-creating re-manufacturing and deconstruction enterprises and more retail outlets are likely to establish themselves. Diverting building materials from rotting or being burned or dumped will reduce land, water, and air pollution – including greenhouse gas emissions.

The signatories to this letter include residential home builders and contractors who operate in the District of Colombia and support these proposed amendments. We hope you will work to ensure that these amendments are adopted into DC’s Residential Building Code as soon as possible.


___________________________      ___________________________      _________________

Organization                                        Representative Name & Title               Date[JD1] 


To sign on or ask Q’s, contact Jim Schulman, Building Material Subcommittee, DC Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee at RegionalArchitect@gmail.com or 202/544-0069  ###


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on construction waste reduction amendments proposed for the DC Residential Building Code:

Q: How difficult will it be to meet the 5% reuse requirement?

A: The proposed code amendments have been designed to make compliance easy, and demonstrate that employing such practices on a modest basis will save or even generate money for builders. Reuse will reduce tipping fees and selling salvaged items can be more lucrative than some realize. Compliance on many renovation jobs can be achieved merely by gently removing existing doors, cabinets, and appliances and requesting a free pick-up from a community non-profit such as Communityforklift.org; RebuildWarehouse.org; or AWiderCircle.org. Architectural salvage items may also be delivered to for-profit organizations such as VintageHousePart.com or TheBrassKnob.com that trade materials for cash.

Q: What forms of “reuse” would qualify to satisfy these amendments?

A: The requirement for reuse can be met on either the supply or demand side: by purchasing and installing reused materials, or recovering and distributing reused materials. Reuse can include a) the incorporation of reused materials from other projects, vendors, or combinations thereof, b) diversion of salvaged materials to a building material reuse facility, c) the use of salvaged materials in construction elsewhere on the project site (as shown on plans), d) transferring salvaged materials to a different project, or e) selling or donating materials for reuse (with the opportunity of a tax deduction).

Q: It is common practice in my construction company to give away selected salvaged materials and equipment to our employees and sub-contractors as a job perk. Will that practice qualify to meet the proposed requirements?

A: Yes, as long as the gifting of materials and their quantities are documented.

Q: How will compliance with these amendments be documented by builders?

A: Documentation of material transfers can take the form of weight tickets, tax donation letters, bills of sale, and/or photographs, and shall be made available to inspectors upon request – so the documentation burden is relatively light. To verify that the minimum is met, builders might have to compare tickets recording the total quantity of debris hauled to the quantity of materials salvaged to verify that the latter is at least 1/20th of the former. Because no new regulatory process will be necessitated, the burden on government agencies is light.

Q: What organizations have already expressed support for the proposed amendments?

A: DC Habitat for Humanity; the DC Sierra Club’s Zero Waste Committee; Alan Abrams, President of the National Council of Building Designer Certification and Board member of the American Institute of Building Design; GL Barnhart Construction; Landis Construction; The Building Materials Re-use Association…

Q: What if there is significant fire, termite, or flood damage to the property being worked on?

A: The amendments include a recycling option if materials are so deteriorated that they cannot easily be sold or given away, or for some other reason recycling is the preferred option.

Q: How does reusing building materials help the environment and create jobs?

A: For every wood stud that is reused, less clear-cutting will be needed to produce raw materials for lumber markets. For every metal product that is reused, less destructive mining will occur to provide raw materials and energy fuels for processing and fabrication. For every container of materials that goes to reuse, approximately two container loads of Construction and Demolition Debris are notdisposed of, which avoids land-filling and incineration that pollute the air and water and avoids degradation of wildlife habitat that occurs if materials are illegally dumped. According to statistics from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for every 100 tons of building materials that are salvaged or re-manufactured into furniture or other valuable products, approximately 3 new jobs are created.

Q: What other jurisdictions have similar requirements?

A: Many states and counties have waste regulations that incentivize reuse and recycling, including Cook County, IL, Oakland, CA, and Houston, TX. Most are oriented to large commercial jobs or demolition only. This code amendment would give Washington, DC the distinction of creatively extending measures already in its commercial building code to single family homes and duplexes – representing a large percentage of the construction market.


To sign on or ask Q’s please get in touch with Jim Schulman, Building Material Subcommittee, DC Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee at RegionalArchitect@gmail.com or 202/544-0069  ###

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