E. Andrew DiSabatino, Jr., has maintained a compost pile in his backyard for more than 15 years so he is no stranger to recycling at the household level. As the chairman of EDiS Company, which built the recently completed Wilmington Organic Recycling Center (WORC), he now has a firsthand appreciation of the process on an industrial scale.
DiSabatino could readily envision the viability of an organic waste composting plant when the contractor joined some other businessmen for an informal dinner to brainstorm the potential for the 27-acre WORC on a redeveloped brownfield site near the Port of Wilmington, DE. Driving the initial interest was the municipal landfill’s planned suspension of receiving yard waste. The group teamed up to form Peninsula Compost Company, LLC that built what is now one of the largest facilities of its type. DiSabatino was so intrigued with the potential for the WORC that he became an investor in it.
That same vision, appreciation of IT applications, and his construction savvy led him into the collaborative development and initial applications of a new web-based construction management system known as BuildingBlok™ that utilizes the iPhone for project managers to communicate from the field and improve control over the WORC from groundbreaking to closeouts.
The plant is anchored by an 18,000-sq.-ft. blue Butler Manufacturing™ metal building. DiSabatino’s EDiS Company, a 104-year-old construction management firm based in Wilmington, is a Butler Builder® serving the area. Peninsula Compost developed the WORC close to the Port of Wilmington, itself a source of many tons of spoiled fruit that is now hauled to the WORC. Other generators that will separate food and other organic waste, either active or foreseen, are hospitals, prisons, universities, supermarkets, waste haulers and others in an area taking in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
At full capacity, the WORC will subject 160,000 tons of separated discarded food and yard waste to an eight-week decomposition and blending process that results in 100,000 tons of high-value, nutrient rich organic compost sold to landscapers, nurseries, farmers and home gardeners. No shortage of supply is foreseen because the tipping fee charged by the facility runs approximately half the amount by landfills that still receive it.
The WORC’s construction program played to the facility’s green mission from the redeveloped ground up to the band of translucent panels around the eave and rooftop skylights that admit natural daylight onto the tipping floor. The roof was reinforced to receive an array of photovoltaic solar collectors. The building operates in ambient temperature conditions and has a sophisticated biofilter system that scrubs the air of objectionable odor.
From the tipping building, the waste advances into long rows outside where it is covered with the Gore™ Cover System after being mixed with wood chips. The natural decomposition process accelerates as the temperature within the covered stacks climbs to between 140- to 170-degrees F and kills off any pathogens. The leachate from the stacks drains down a trench collection system under the windrows of maturing compost and is received by the municipal sewage system.
DiSabatino, whose company served as the project’s construction manager, applied BuildingBlok throughout the construction process. The voluminous change orders, blueprints and other related documentation were reduced from normally more than ten large cartons to less than half a box for storage. EDiS had collaborated for two years in developing the BuildingBlok construction management system from what was originally a web-based punch list tool developed by Justin Nolan, a young IT entrepreneur. The system is now marketed to a construction industry always eager to gain better management over project budgets and schedules.
Using EDiS operations as a development basis, the system evolved that can put all those involved in a project--owners, architects, engineers, managers and sub-contractors--on the same secure webpage serving as a project’s comprehensive record updated throughout the construction stages. The WORC project and other field tests have shown the system streamlines decision making and overall communications which can reduce completion time by more than a 75 percent.
By making everything a paperless (green) record on the Internet, EDiS established a complete audit trail for every construction document related to WORC and saved expenses historically associated with paper, printing, faxing, shipping, courier services and blueprints. Another intriguing aspect was the use of iPhones by on-site field managers to create, update, document and synch their input to the blueprints, daily reports, punch lists and photos. The iPhone application also allows managers to work in remote field locations without access to the Internet. Any changes input to the device are saved until a connection (wifi or cellular) is re-established and then data synched automatically and transmitted to the project webpage.
Still in its startup phase after an eight-month design and construction program, WORC appears headed for success. In addition to creating a commercially marketable product, WORC eliminates the problem of methane that would otherwise result from disposal of the organics in landfills. The U.S. EPA estimates that 25 percent—31 million tons--of the prepared food in the U.S. becomes waste, according a recent estimate. Landfills account for 23 percent of the methane emissions in this country. The gas is 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The WORC’s elimination of landfill methane that would be otherwise generated by what the recycler receives would equate to removing 8,800 automobiles from the road every year!
For more information on BuildingBlok™, go to www.buildingblok.com.