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Zero Waste Design Guidelines Offer Architects Innovative Design Options for Reducing & Diverting Waste

  Lisa R Cassidy     Aug 16, 2018

iStock-506039720 green city recycling for blogIn New York City, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) exports more than 12,000 tons of waste each day. Because there is no waste storage requirements for commercial buildings, each building can manage waste as they see fit. For many building owners, waste is a costly process. It is managed manually and stored indoors or on loading docks.

Unfortunately, New York City is not the only major city facing high costs and antiquated processes when it comes to managing waste, but they are among the few with very aggressive zero waste goals.  According to OneNYC, “The City is committed to becoming a worldwide leader in solid waste management by achieving the goal of Zero Waste by 2030, eliminating the need to send waste to out-of-state landfills and minimizing the overall environmental impact of the city’s trash.”

In an effort to achieve this goal, New York-based Clare Miflin, architect at Kiss + Cathcart, Architects, brought together a team of architects and planners to develop a set of guidelines, called the Zero Waste Design Guidelines, that would offer architects innovative waste solutions for new building designs.

The guidelines were created with the help of over 100 collaborators including architects, planners, developers, city officials, engineers, sustainability consultants, university researchers, waste haulers, recycling experts and building managers. Even 

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porters and superintendents were interviewed so that the team could fully address waste collection issues and issues confronting different building types. 

Rethinking the way waste is stored, managed, diverted and transported was central to developing the Zero Waste Design Guidelines. And not a moment too soon. Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability stated, “Better designed, more effective, and more intentional waste management is a necessary part of the City’s effort to meet its climate goals.”

The Zero Waste Design Guidelines serve as both a set of practical recommendations and an inspiration for future building designs in any major city. The guidelines can be found at along with an online Waste Calculator that helps architects estimate waste volume and provides equipment recommendations for storing and compacting waste, baling recycled material (cardboard, plastic, aluminum and glass) and managing organics. The calculator also gives developers and building owners an idea of the impact waste and recycling initiatives can have on the total volume of each waste stream

As you might expect, the online calculator is primarily intended for the design of new buildings where the volume of waste is not yet known, however it can also be used in existing buildings to see how the different type of equipment can reduce the volume of waste – allowing building managers to evaluate different waste diversion strategies.

According to Clare Miflin, ”Good design should change behavior without people even noticing.”

The Zero Waste Design Guidelines were made possible with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and were developed in collaboration with the AIA New York Committee on the Environment; Kiss + Cathcart, ArchitectsClosedLoops; and the Foodprint Group.



5 Best Practices for Managing, Tracking and Reducing Waste in Commercial Buildings

high rise building


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), manufacturing facilities and commercial buildings are responsible for nearly half of the 167 million tons of waste that wind up in incinerators or landfills each year.1

There are many things that facility managers, building owners and property managers can do to improve or enhance their sustainability efforts.

Discover 5 best practices for managing, tracking and reducing waste.

Learn More 



Tags  Commercial Buildings Managing Waste Sustainable Solutions

Lisa R Cassidy

Written by Lisa R Cassidy

For nearly 20 years, Lisa has worked with a range of organizations from high tech startups to Fortune 500 companies across several industries. She is often charged with one simple mission to “make it happen.” As a result, Lisa is adept at developing breakthrough strategies and seeing those same strategies build brands and long-term equity. Her “can do” attitude allows her to make things happen and continually exceed client expectations. As a non-traditional marketing and communications consultant, Lisa believes her work really begins after the strategy and planning has been developed. Actual implementation is often what separates good brands from great ones. Maximizing budgets, modifying strategies on the fly and ultimately delivering results are key to Lisa’s success throughout the years. Lisa is currently Senior Strategist & Founder for ecoImagine.

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