Downtown Demo

by Diana Barnum, Correspondent

"A Findorff worker dumps a wagon full of scrap wood into the wood recycling dumpster"

J. H. Findorff and Son, Inc., of Madison, WI, are so committed to the reduction of construction site waste in their state, that they formed a team.
Along with the Overture Development Corporation, WasteCap Wisconsin and the Madison Environmental Group, they are deconstructing an entire city block for the creation of the Overture Center for the Arts, a new arts district in Madison, WI.
Efforts for Phase I of the facility, targeted to open mid-2004, have been so successful that Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum awarded them a grant.
The team removed seven buildings. Approximately 74 percent of the debris by weight from the original work site was recycled or reused. “Less than 12-20% is what usually gets saved,” said Larry Thomas, senior project manager at J.H. Findorff and Son, Inc.
Findorff and Sons, founded in 1890, is recognized as one of the largest construction companies in the Midwest and one of the oldest successful construction companies in the nation. With more than 500 employees today and completing more than $100 million in projects annually, notable projects include the Anchor Savings and Loan Building on Capitol Square, the Hilldale Shopping Center and the Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital. And for Findorff and fellow team members, part of being a community leader is being responsible to the environment. So instead of sending waste to landfills, materials are saved for future use or donated to Habitat for Humanity, the New Goodwill Industries, Saint Vincent de Paul, Design Coalition, and other community organizations.
“This project is going very well and exceeding our expectations,” said Sonya Newenhouse, Ph.D., president of Madison Environmental Group, Inc. “With minimal guidance and signage the large volume items such as concrete, wood, metal and cardboard are being recycled. Thus far no loads have been rejected!”
In just the past couple of months, recycled items included:

Susie is an important connection at the Overture site because she collects and helps monitor recycling of cans and bottles and newspaper.
Photos courtesy of Sonya Newenhouse

• 36 tons of wood
• 112 tons of concrete
• 80 yards of metal
They also recycle cans, bottles, cardboard, plan drafting paper, plastic, glass, drywall, masonry, stone, plastic foam and aluminum. “Concrete is being hauled by Green Valley Disposal to Wingra Stone Company which is grinding it into 1/4 inch recycled concrete screening. Wood is being hauled to Mobile Pallet who recycles the resource into landscape mulch. The Peltz Group is recycling the paper and cardboard and Waste Management is hauling the metal for recycling,” explained Newenhouse. “Madison Environmental Group, Inc, specifically Amanda Fuller, is managing the waste and recycling for Findorff via WasteCap Wisconsin.”
The Overture Project represents one of Wisconsin’s first demonstration grants for a recycling project in a compact downtown site.
Gov. McCallum awarded the team a Waste Reduction and Recycling Demonstration Grant from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for $78, 416. This grant program provides $500,000 annually for new cost-effective strategies that create public awareness of municipal, commercial and industrial waste reduction, reuse and recycling through demonstration projects at construction sites.
Past award recipients have included schools, non-profit organizations, public entities, Wisconsin counties and municipalities and other local businesses. Since the program began, more than $10.7 million has been awarded to about 150 projects.
WasteCap Wisconsin reported profit from the project in the Green Building Report, “Finding A Future for Old Buildings.” Between cost avoidance and outright sale of materials, the project accrued a net savings or profit of $28,000. A facade of an old bank still up for sale is not included in this figure.
With the cost of landfill space rising as availability of space falls, an average tipping fee is around $40 per ton today. Fees of $50 and $60 per ton, even as high as $100 are not uncommon either. One commercial building can generate 155 pounds of debris per square foot. So finding cost-effective strategies is a win-win situation not only for the environment, but for contractors and developers, too.
“We link together waste source and end users,” said Richard Moen, executive director for WasteCap. “WasteCap has had several projects like that to help develop the market. We identify useable building components and get someone to take facilitating materials away.”
For more information about the award winning team, contact Madison Environmental Group, Inc. at 22 North Carroll Street, Suite 310, Madison, WI 53703. Call: (608) 280-0800, or fax inquiries to: (608) 280-8108. E-mail inquiries to: or visit online at WasteCap Wisconsin is located at 2647 N. Stowell Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53211-4299. Call: (414) 961-1100, or fax inquiries to: (414) 961-1105, or visit online at J.H. Findorff and Son, Inc. is at 300 S. Bedford St., Madison, WI 53703. Call: (608) 257-5321, or fax inquiries to: (608) 257-5306, or visit at