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Nexii earns TRUE gold standard for efforts to hit zero waste

Concrete alternative said to cut embodied carbon by 36 per cent

IMAGE: Nexii's Squamish employees during the facility's zero-waste audit
Nexii's Squamish employees during the facility's zero-waste audit. (Courtesy Nexii Building Solutions Inc.)

Nexii Building Solutions Inc. has become the first construction company in North America to achieve the Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) gold certification for zero-waste for its Squamish, B.C. manufacturing facility.

The company has managed to divert 90.3 per cent of the facility’s waste from landfills, and less than 10 per cent of the waste hauled offsite was contaminated.

At its Squamish location, Nexii produces Nexiite – a concrete alternative that is poured and cast into prefabricated panels in the same fashion as traditional concrete, but contains no Portland cement, lime or adhesives. Nexii says Nexiite can cut embodied carbon by 36 per cent compared to regular concrete.

“The only waste that would appear with us onsite would be materials that are arriving with our panels to protect them in transit. And what can't be dealt with locally will come back with us to the plant to be recycled or reused. So that was already the existing context,” Zosia Brown, Nexii’s vice-president of sustainability told SustainableBiz.

“And we wanted to then say, well, when we bring those materials back – and actually as we're manufacturing our products – that is also a very lean and low-waste process as well, and what are some ways that we could third-party validate that work?”

Nexii initially announced a zero-waste goal for its Squamish facility in June.

Nexii and TRUE

The TRUE certification was created and is administered by Washington, D.C.-based Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). It evaluates a company's waste reduction efforts, including recycling and composting programs, reduction of materials used and diversion of waste from landfills. GBCI also administers LEED and WELL Building Standards in the U.S.

Buildings and construction are responsible for 36 per cent of global energy consumption and 37 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Nexii’s 80,000-square-foot Squamish manufacturing facility includes a small office space and a lunch room. It opened in March 2021.

Brown explained that Nexii documented the stream of all materials coming into the facility, educational resources for the facility’s staff, developed a zero-waste purchasing policy and implemented related signage throughout the building as well as zero-waste material in orientation. The process also involved a facility-wide waste audit over two days.

“There's a whole bunch of other credits as well that are part of the TRUE certification, which have to do with redesigning waste out of the system to begin with, it has to do with reuse of materials as a first step in that waste hierarchy,” Brown said.

“And we want to retain the value of materials where we can. Its reuse, recycling, composting and then as a very last resort, it's landfill. So that would be anything that we haven't had been able to find a high-value, next-life use for.”

Nexii sought the assistance of Vancouver-based sustainability consultancy Light House to achieve the certification, which took about a year. The companies had a pre-existing relationship which began with a life-cycle assessment of Nexii’s panels.

“We wanted to document that ability as proof of concept to reutilize Nexii panels,” Brown said. “We worked with Light House as a third-party observer on a deconstruction of one of our early office builds, and so built that relationship with them.

"They also have expertise in and TRUE and zero-waste certification.”

Nexii’s next steps

There is one more rank – platinum – in the TRUE rankings.

“Platinum basically requires having really good and open conversations with our suppliers and our supply chain as well. And so that would be the next level,” Brown said. “Right now we're focused on, we've got this body of work under our belt, and we're looking forward to basically using that as a template for subsequent Nexii plants.”

The company also has facilities in Moose Jaw, Sask.; Vancouver; Hazleton, Pa.; Pittsburgh; and Dallas. The Squamish facility was used as a roadmap to zero-waste for the other locations, and Nexii's Moose Jaw location will be next.

The company has a goal of achieving zero-waste at its facilities within two years of their opening.

Nexii is also preparing to release its next sustainability report this summer. Brown said there will be a focus on progress made on the embodied carbon in Nexii’s products.

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