Most jurisdictions with construction and demolition (C&D) ordinances set a threshold for projects that would fall under the ordinance, with the intent of targeting those projects that generate the majority of C&D waste in their jurisdiction. For some jurisdictions, most of their building permits are for small construction projects, so they would set a low threshold to cover those types of projects.

Other jurisdictions find that it is really only the largest projects that generate the majority of C&D waste in their jurisdiction, so they choose to set a higher threshold. Part of your decision on what threshold to set will also depend on your staffing resources, and how many projects they can handle (for example, reviewing waste management plants, determining ordinance compliance, handling deposits, etc.).

Prior to setting a threshold, it is recommended you identify which type of construction and demolition projects generate the most C&D debris in your area. Some jurisdictions, like the City of San Jose, have identified their most commonly disposed C&D material types and the largest or most frequent generator of C&D materials by conducting surveys at local solid waste facilities.

It is also recommended that you consider setting a different threshold for a construction or renovation project than for a demolition project, because demolition projects often generate more C&D waste than construction or renovation projects of the same size or cost. You could therefore potentially exclude some demolition projects from your C&D diversion program if you set too high of a threshold based only on project cost if you have not differentiated thresholds for construction versus demolition projects.

Specific project types to consider when identifying a threshold include:

  • Residential
  • Non-residential
  • New construction
  • Renovation
  • Demolition
  • Land Clearing (for example, grading)

Thresholds can be established based on:

  • Project size (for example, in square feet or dollar amount, or both).
  • Project type (for example, large public buildings, multifamily construction, commercial buildings, home construction, or remodels).
  • Construction projects only, demolition projects only, or both.

You many also want to include a list of specific types of projects that would be exempt from the ordinance. Some common exemptions are listed below:

  • Emergency situations to protect the public health and safety (for example, debris removal after disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, etc.).
  • Seismic tie-down projects.
  • Pools and spas.
  • Non-structural.
  • Work for which a building or demolition permit is not required.
  • New construction projects below a certain dollar amount or below a certain number of units.
  • New nonresidential construction projects below a certain dollar or square footage amount.
  • Residential or nonresidential remodeling or renovation projects below a certain dollar or square footage amount.
  • Roofing projects that do not include removal of an existing roof.
  • Work for which only a plumbing, only an electrical, or only a mechanical permit is required.
  • Projects where no foundation or other structural building modifications are required.

Progressive Threshold

If you are not sure if your existing recycling infrastructure could handle a sudden large increase in C&D debris that could result from implementing a C&D diversion ordinance, you may want to consider establishing a progressive threshold that would allow you to:

  • Target certain projects first and allow markets to develop for the recovered material.
  • Then expand the ordinance to include more projects as markets for recovered C&D debris grow.

For example, a jurisdiction may choose to:

  • First target only large commercial projects, allow the C&D markets to develop for the material types generated, and then expand to include large residential projects.
  • Gradually decrease the square footage threshold of projects to which the ordinance applies. For example:
    • Year One—40,000 square feet.
    • Year Two—20,000 square feet.
    • Year Three—10,000 square feet.
    • Year Four—5,000 square feet.

C&D Diversion Guide Home Waste Management Plan

For more information contact: Local Assistance & Market Development,