The Genesis Marina project in Brisbane, Calif., has become the world’s first Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) precertified construction site.

Located on the site of a former landfill, the 570,000-sq-ft Class A office space for life sciences and biotech laboratories is expected to divert more than 90% of its waste from landfills and incineration.

Genesis Marina, which is pursuing LEED Gold certification, will feature three life science campus buildings, two that are six stories and one that is seven stories. They are above a two‐story podium parking garage, with a shared outdoor space overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The project is expected to achieve TRUE certification when construction completes in August 2023.

San Francisco-based Webcor is building the project and Phase 3 Real Estate Partners Inc. and Bain Capital Real Estate are the developer/owner team. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is the architect.

The TRUE program is led by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which also implements the widely used LEED certification.

TRUE precertification recognizes projects that have implemented policies and procedures needed to effectively pursue zero waste, and have demonstrated a commitment to achieving TRUE certification.


Diversion Strategies

While LEED focuses primarily on energy and water efficiency, TRUE certification looks at reducing project waste that is brought to the site and ensures that the removed waste is reused and diverted from becoming trash, says Celeste McMickle, director at U.S. Green Building Council. The TRUE program does not accept incineration as a diversion strategy. 

McMickle says TRUE precertification is usually sought by existing facilities, with Genesis Marina being the first construction project to seek and achieve this sustainable milestone.

“Zero waste is kind of a new thing in the construction industry, and the construction precertification is a new opportunity, and something we have been pitching to the public for a while now,” says McMickle. “This project made a commitment early on in design that this is something they wanted to move forward with, and somebody has to be the first."

Whether an existing facility or a project under construction, achieving TRUE certification is challenging. Eligible projects must meet a minimum of seven prerequisites and attain at least 31 points on a TRUE Application form.

Requirements include implementing a zero-waste policy by diverting 90% of all waste generated and meeting all solid waste and recycling regulations. The project must submit 12 months of waste diversion data to GBCI annually to keep the certification current and a case study of zero waste initiatives to be published on the GCBI website.

Michael Gerrity, president of Phase 3 Real Estate Partners Inc., says the idea to seek TRUE on the Genesis Marina project was first introduced to his team by Webcor and its zero-waste consultant All About Waste. 

Because Genesis Marina is the first TRUE pre-certified construction development, no cost data is available, so Gerrity doesn’t know how much, if any, costs this sustainable route will add.

“However, Webcor has been tracking the projected cost for TRUE Certification, and we will implement this data for our projections in the future,” he says. “We believe the cost of TRUE certification to be minimal when considering the overall long-term impact it will have on sustainability, reusability, and social responsibility.”

Soonrock Park, Webcor’s Genesis Marina project director, says TRUE certification aligns with the contractor’s commitments to implementing a zero waste policy on a jobsite by the end of next year and reducing the company’s overall project waste by 2% annually. 

“About 65% of all U.S. waste comes from construction and demolition debris, yet in California only 40% of that is diverted from landfills,” says Park. “Learning and becoming fluent in the TRUE Zero Waste program is a stated component of our strategy, so we are holding ourselves accountable to make it happen.”

Park says the project is currently diverting 98% of the project’s concrete, metal, asphalt, wood, cardboard and plastic waste. “Concrete is our highest contributor counting for 87% of our waste that is being diverted and recycled, as the diversion rate is measured by weight, not volume,” he says. 

Genesis Marina has no demolition debris, which usually accounts for the majority of the total diversion percentage weight. “This means that meeting the minimum 90% diversion rate requirement is more difficult than it would be on a typical project. We are in a constant race against the clock to receive and install materials as safely and efficiently as possible. Extra time now required for sorting trash is not accounted for in a company’s production rate or schedule,” Park says. 


Culture Changes

Meanwhile, Webcor must keep an eye on how materials are sent to the site as manufacturers and suppliers send materials to sites in the most convenient and cost-effective manner, which can include bulky non-recyclable packaging. “We had to change the mentality of personnel at all levels (field, office, vendors, manufacturers, etc.) and convince them to care about waste and how it’s being handled,” says Park, who notes the project’s operations and field teams work hand-in-hand with design and trade partners to reduce, reuse, and recycle in the office and the field.

Denise Braun, principal at All About Waste, a sustainable consulting firm, says TRUE certification can be the future of the construction industry. “TRUE is one of the best tools that help general contractors, developers and designers to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce cost and wasteful practices and to promote circularity within their project,” she says. “The cost of building materials and landfill (waste hauling) are going up every year, so practices that could reduce wasting materials and landfilling has to become a priority for the industry.”

The only other construction project in California seeking TRUE precertification is the Contra Costa County Administration Building/Jail Demolition and Redevelopment Project in Martinez. The 61,000 sq-ft project, still in planning, is owned by Contra Costa County, with Webcor and Perkins+Will serving as the design-build team, and All About Waste as the TRUE consultant. 

Kavita Karmarkar, Webcor assistant sustainability manager for the Contra Costa project, says to achieve True certification, the whole design and construction team must be involved from the early stages to understand and prepare for achieving full certification.  

“Participation in TRUE requires extensive coordination and planning for contractors, dealing with waste management and logistics planning with haulers and subcontractors,” says Karmarkar. “This involves finding reuse and recycling partners for waste streams that are not recycled traditionally, education and training of our trade partners and vendors, and crafting zero-waste policies and toolkits for teams to adopt.”