The demolition and construction of the West Tower marks a new beginning for Covenant Medical Center, as the new building will become the new front door to the hospital’s public spaces. Interestingly, it’s also a new beginning for thousands of tons of debris created by the demolition, up to 95 percent of which will be recycled or repurposed—making construction sustainability a highlight of the Covenant Medical Center’s West Tower transformation.

“The Covenant Medical Center West Tower project is an exciting success story about construction sustainability,” says Jerry McPhail, Regional Director at Petra, the design and construction management firm leading the multi-year, $130 Million project, which is part of an ongoing $450 Million capital improvement plan called “Keeping the Covenant.” Petra is responsible for every aspect of the West Tower project, both the demolition and construction, including everything from complex pre-planning through furniture selection for the new spaces.

“Most people don’t understand just how much debris gets recycled in the industry today,” McPhail explains. “A long time ago, the design and construction industry made the decision to become more sustainable, and today it’s standard practice. While demolition doesn’t seem to be sustainable, it’s easily converted to a sustainable activity because of the ability today to recycle or repurpose so much of the material.”

“Like many companies in design and construction, Petra is committed to responsible construction sustainability practices, and our outstanding results on the West project demonstrate that,” McPhail says.

Construction Sustainability Practices

Construction sustainability follows the same “reduce, reuse, recycle” goals we’re all familiar with. Some materials can be reused following demolition, which defers materials away from landfills. The best-case scenario is reusing materials on the same site, when new construction is the next phase. When that’s not possible, those materials are often reused on other projects, including other construction sites or as fill materials for land reclamation and revitalization endeavors in other areas.

Construction-related material that isn’t reused is evaluated and earmarked for recycling, including things like masonry, wood, concrete, metals, porcelain, tile, insulation, drywall, and asphalt. What remains after repurposing or recycling is disposed of as waste, but typically—and ideally—is a small percentage of the total amount.

Specific to the West Tower project, McPhail says 90 to 95 percent of the debris material by weight has been or will be recycled or repurposed by conclusion of the demolition phase, including: 12,000 tons of repurposed brick, 38,000 tons of repurposed concrete, and 6,000 tons of recycled metal, such as steel, aluminum, and copper.

For the West Tower project, only 3,500 tons of debris will be going to the landfill—a significant accomplishment considering 5 buildings totaling 418,000 square feet have been demolished in preparation for construction of the new building. Pre-planning for the West Tower project, which included extensive construction sustainability planning, began in 2013. Demolition is expected to wrap up in December 2018, with completion of the new building slated for January 2021.

Construction Sustainability Benefits

The benefits of construction sustainability efforts aren’t just environmental, they’re also financial. Environmental benefits include conserving landfill space as well as reducing the environmental impact of extracting raw materials and producing new materials. Financially, savings are achieved by reducing project disposal costs and the purchase of new construction materials. In addition, the value of some repurposed or recycled materials creates income potential as well.

While in the past debris materials were wasted, today repurposing and recycling is negotiated into the bid process during planning. That value is passed along to project owners to offset and reduce overall project costs.

“Today we hear a lot about sustainability benefits and goals related to construction. We tend to associate ‘green’ buildings with LEED, but there’s so much more to being green in construction,” says McPhail. “For Petra, as in the industry, construction sustainability is a top priority, and minimizing waste is always the goal.”

“At Petra, we always strive to do more and do better, exceeding expectations and even standard practices. Our achievement in construction sustainability on the West Tower project is an example of how we go above and beyond in everything we do,” McPhail continues. “When it comes to construction sustainability, we want every project to be as sustainable as possible, and we apply that thinking to every aspect of every project, from start to finish.”

“When it’s complete, the West Tower project will have a positive impact on the Covenant Medical Center healthcare system, its patients, and the Lubbock, Texas, community,” says McPhail. “The fact that it was achieved with minimal negative impact on our environment is something everyone can be extremely proud of.”

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