CHAMPAIGN (AP) — The demolition of a 60-year-old university residence hall that housed generations of college students creates one serious pile of rubble.
More than 10,000 tons, in fact.
But only a fraction of the former Forbes Hall will wind up in a landfill. About 98 percent will be recycled in one way or another, part of the "green" building practices required under sustainable-construction standards.
Forbes is being demolished to make way for a new four-story residence hall at the corner of First Street and Gregory Drive, the third to be built as part of the Ikenberry Commons redevelopment. The cost is estimated at $51 million to $55 million, part of a larger $83 million project that includes a new stormwater detention system in the playing fields west of First Street and demolition of two other residence halls.
The UI requires any new building over $5 million to meet "gold" LEED certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. And under LEED standards, 90 percent of a razed building must be recycled or otherwise diverted from the landfill, said Steve Street, project executive for ClayCo, the firm managing the latest Ikenberry Commons project.
At Forbes, an estimated 10,285 tons of material is being torn down (after asbestos and other hazardous materials were removed). Of that, only about 200 tons is headed to a landfill, or about 2 percent, according to documents filed by American Demolition Corp. in Elgin. The rest — mostly concrete blocks, masonry and metal — is being recycled, Street said.
It's a fairly meticulous process, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing. And the same philosophy was applied to the building's furnishings.
The lounge furniture, desks and beds were moved out earlier in the spring, destined for use elsewhere on campus or at other state agencies. Anything left over is offered first to nonprofit organizations and then put up for public bid, Ruby said.
Doors and fixtures came next. The UI is keeping many of the doors, knobs, lights and water meters for use in other residence halls or buildings. Westin, Scott, Snyder and Hopkins halls have similar footprints and date from the same era as Forbes, built between 1958 and 1961 as part of the original "six pack." (The sixth, Garner Hall, was torn down in 2012 to make way for the new Nugent Hall.)
Next came the removal of asbestos floor tile and pipes wrapped with asbestos insulation.
The "soft demo" phase followed in mid-June, with crews removing the wall-mounted overhead bookcases, mirrors, door frames and any remaining doors.
Excavators with giant hoes began to carefully "chew" through the structure of the building the week of June 24. That process was expected to take several weeks as the material is painstakingly sorted.
Material has to be separated not just into "trash" and "recycling" but into type. Most of the recycling is concrete from the building's structure, in addition to masonry and metal, Street said. The metal will be separated into ferrous (steel and iron alloys) and nonferrous (copper and aluminium) and sent to various plants for recycling.
The concrete is typically crushed and reused in road projects, and some could be used as limestone base for construction of the new residence hall in spring 2014, said Mike Rosenberger, project supervisor for Clayco.
A tour of the site in mid-June showed the Forbes courtyard filled with piles, some trash and some recycling.
There were bags of insulation, stacks of wooden doors, rolls of old blue carpet, and piles of ceiling tiles, drywall and black wall base — all destined for the landfill.
On the recycling side, all kinds of metal were set aside, from screws and handrails to exit signs, wiring, red fire-extinguisher cabinets, lights, piping, ductwork, lathe supports and window frames.
University Housing will also save 250 exterior bricks from Forbes as keepsakes, available for a $150 donation through the UI Foundation, Ruby said. About 17 bricks have already sold.
During the actual demolition, backhoes tear down an area and use a magnet to extract some of the metal, and crews walk through to pull out valuable materials, Rosenberger said.
"It almost comes down to hand sorting," he said.
The process takes more time and labor than simply tearing everything down and trucking it to a landfill, Rosenberger said. The demolition at Forbes was budgeted at $543,550.
It may be more expensive, but it pays off in the long run, he said.
And as more and more contractors adopt sustainable practices, using recycled material and keeping construction debris from the landfill, prices will drop and it will become more economical, Street said, "and that's good for business."
"It's like anything else that's new. It takes a few years for everyone to buy in and accept it as the norm," he said.
Rosenberger said his last three projects have all been built using LEED standards. "It's all around the country."
Students also expect the university to use environmentally sound construction practices, Ruby said. They wouldn't want to move into a new building if the old one were simply trashed, she said.
The UI's commitment to using LEED standards follows a long trend toward recycling and other environmentally friendly practices, said Morgan Johnston, sustainability coordinator for UI Facilities and Services.
A big recycling push on campus began in 1989, following the closing of the Community Recycling Center in Champaign, she said. A materials recovery facility opened in 1997 to sort waste from across campus.
In fiscal 2012, the campuswide recycling system diverted 84.5 percent of the UI's solid-waste stream from the landfill, including trash, yard waste and construction debris, she said. The goal is to bring that up to 90 percent, which is considered "zero waste," one of the goal's of the Illinois Climate Action Plan. The UI and other universities have pledged to become "carbon neutral" by 2050.
And starting with the construction of the Business Instructional Facility in 2006, UI projects began adhering to LEED building standards. When other buildings were razed as part of the Ikenberry Commons redevelopment, about 97 percent of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill, said Andy Blacker, spokesman for UI Facilities and Services.
In the Lincoln Hall renovation, completed last year, many of the original doors and woodwork were salvaged and reused. Slate tiles were ground up to be used as mulch around the building site, Blacker said.
"It's pretty easy to do. Most of those materials can be recycled," Johnston said.
Johnston didn't have a specific analysis on how much the LEED standards cost versus conventional building or demolition procedures, but she noted that landfill tipping fees are not declining.
"There is some savings by not having it go to a landfill," she said. "At the state level we are getting low on landfill space. Sometime in the next couple of decades, it's not going to be easy to just throw it away."
Michael Mervis, director of Mervis industries, said more and more universities are pushing to reuse everything that can be reused. His company has been recycling metal for decades, and one of its subsidiaries, Soltec and Co. in Decatur, is processing the steel from the Forbes demolition.
Steel and other metals are easily recycled and often quite valuable, he said. It would cost 4 to 6 cents a pound to landfill iron and copper, but those metals can sell for 35 cents to $3.50 a pound as salvage, depending on the market, he said.
"It's profitable; it's not more costly," Mervis said.
"It's possible that a demolition project under the right market conditions can be cash-flow positive. You can tear the building down and be paid for it," he said, although that's less likely if a building has a lot of wood or stone, which isn't as profitable to recycle.
Johnston said the UI is trying to be proactive and show individuals and businesses how they can adopt more sustainable practices and reduce their landfill waste to avoid the exorbitant tipping costs of the future — while protecting the environment.
"We're doing this to show people how to get it done and how it works," she said.