Recycling Used Ceilings Helps Hotel Developer Reach Waste Diversion Goals

By Anita Snader

When converting an 18-story office building into a five-star, luxury hotel off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, developer CBRE Development Services wanted the new, 284-room Conrad Hotel to be a high-performance, green building that would meet the requirements for LEED certification.During renovation, the interior of the 227,569 square foot building would be completely gutted and rebuilt. Targeting the LEED credit for Construction Waste Management, the developer needed to come up with a plan for diverting most of the construction and demolition debris away from landfills.

A large part of the construction waste consisted of used ceiling panels that would be removed from the building during demolition. Leveraging its existing partnership with Armstrong through its FUSION preferred vendor program, CBRE was able to recycle the old ceiling panels through the Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program.

Ceiling Recycling Program

The program enables commercial building owners and contractors to salvage ceiling panels removed during demolition and renovation projects and return them to the nearest Armstrong plant as an alternative to landfill disposal, where they are used to make new ceiling panels in a closed-loop manufacturing process. The new panels are designated as “Ceiling-2-Ceiling,” a line of products that, according to Armstrong, has the highest level of recycled content in the industry from a closed loop, post-consumer process.

By participating in the program, the demolition crew was able to place the salvaged ceiling panels in containers provided by Independent Recycling Services, a Chicago-area waste and recycling hauler. When the containers were full, the recycling contractor transported them back to its facility where the ceiling panels were baled, shrink-wrapped and made ready for pickup by Armstrong.

“This process with Armstrong and Independent Recycling was as easy as our regular demolition,” said Brian Duddy of BreakThru Demolition. “We just removed the ceiling panels, loaded them in the designated dumpster and they were taken away. Nothing additional needed to be done.”

Increases Safety and Helps Maintain Clean Job Site

The streamlined process enabled the demolition crew to remove the used ceilings from 12 of the 18 floors in one week, saving time and money on labor.

“It’s very orderly and organized to get the ceiling panels off the floor and down into a waste disposal container,” said Brian Baldock, project manager for general contractor Clayco. “It increases our safety on the job and we are a very safety-conscious company.”

The ceiling recycling process also helps maintain a clean job site. “There aren’t crushed panels everywhere,” explained Baldock. “There isn’t dust everywhere. You are encapsulating all the ceiling panels in a dedicated dumpster. They’re not commingled. You’re not going to be missing half the panels or a quarter of the panels trying to separate them out at another facility.”

Speedy removal of the old ceilings gave the mechanical contractors open access to the plenum. “They were able to identify what materials needed to stay above the ceiling and what didn’t without having to deal with the ceiling panels,” said Baldock. “It made them more efficient and made the project quicker to demolish.”

By the time the demolition was complete, the developer had sent 220,000 square feet of old ceiling panels back to Armstrong for recycling, diverting roughly 110 tons of construction waste away from the local landfill.

Saves Money on Container Costs and Landfill Fees

Ceiling Graphic
While recycling the old ceilings helped CBRE earn the LEED credit for Construction Waste Management, participating in the program saved the developer up to 30% on container costs and landfill fees. “The key benefit to any waste diversion is cost savings,” said CBRE Development Director Michael Tobin. “It’s a long term value that allows us to save money on demolition, but it’s also nice for the environment.”

Ceiling panel removal can be accomplished by one of either two methods. The crew can stack panels on pallets and then shrink-wrap them for secure transport, or place the panels in designated recycling containers for transferal by the partner waste hauler.

Since its inception in 1999, the Armstrong Ceiling Recycling Program has recycled more than 179 million square feet of reclaimed commercial ceiling panels globally. This represents more than 88,000 tons of construction waste that has been diverted from landfills since the program began.


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