Transfer stations: finding the right shade of green for your transfer station

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

The goal of sustainable design in the built environment is to move the bar higher. A good definition of sustainability is the act of balancing the environmental, social and economic needs of the built and natural environments for present and future generations (Brundtland Commission, 1987). These principles can be applied to every type of project, including the design of transfer stations and other recycling facilities.

Transfer stations and material recovery facilities (MRFs) can be environmental stewards by minimizing their impact on the environment. There are various ways to implement sustainable options. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™ for New Construction and Existing Buildings—the LEED® rating system— provides stakeholders with a template to show progress with a wide variety of measurement tools. Implementing a sustainable option at a transfer station or MRF can result in greater impact than similar actions at many commercial buildings.

Project owners begin by evaluating whether to aim for LEED certification. Because there are significant costs associated with applying for and receiving this official certification, some project owners decide to proceed with this goal while others work to incorporate sustainable features using LEED criteria as a guide, but choose to not submit a project for review and certification. The result in both cases is a more sustainable facility.

If you choose to incorporate sustainable design principles you should base your decision on what is best for your project, whether or not you choose to submit for LEED certification. The LEED process encourages operators to implement green operations and track energy efficiency and environmental improvements, which are components of long-term sustainability of facilities with or without certification. The key is for the owner to clearly define the role of sustainability in a project early on, so the design can incorporate appropriate options and explain the associated benefits. The bottom line is that project owners should think beyond LEED when defining a sustainable program for their facility or operations.

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