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Read more on the design-build and solid waste industries from articles on Cambridge Companies, our design-build experience and our expertise on new builds, repairs, renovations, upgrades, expansions and modifications on solid waste facilities.

Evaluating the Challenges and Benefits of Constructing a Solidification Pit at your Landfill Facility
Waste Advantage Magazine│ April 2019

Liquid waste presents a unique challenge and opportunity for landfill operators. There are many factors that should be figured into the decision on whether to locate a liquid bulking (solidification) operation at your landfill facility. These factors  an be grouped into four categories to form a decision matrix: business case, environmental considerations, future growth and operational considerations. By clearly understanding all the pros and cons to co-locating a solidification operation at your landfill facility, the decision will be best suited to serve business needs now and in the future.

Business Case
The first step to determining the viability of moving forward is to confirm that it makes business sense. At this stage, an assessment of local needs should be completed to determine if there is a need/opportunity for this line of business. Once the projected volume of incoming materials (both liquid/wet waste and potential bulking/solidification agents) has been assembled, a gross estimate of projected revenue this operation could generate will be available. The incurred expenses can then be contrast through the design, permitting, construction and ongoing operating costs. If this exercise demonstrates there is a viable business case to be made, you can proceed to the next steps.

Environmental Considerations
Liquid waste (fracking liquids, boring fluid, etc.) is not allowed in landfills in its original form, which presents very real challenges but also opportunities. Excess moisture is a common concern/issue in landfills, and most landfill compliance issues relate to excess moisture. To then introduce materials(s) that have a high liquid content runs counter to the goal of keeping the material dry. There are many liquids that cannot be processed at a private or municipal sanitary facility or cannot be processed in another cost-effective manner. That is where liquid bulking/solidification can perform an important service. For these liquids, bulking/solidification and landfilling may be the best option from an economic standpoint if the processes can be performed in an environmentally responsible manner. (Author’s note: the term “bulking” means absorbing liquids with a dry solid; those liquids will likely release from the mix once compressed. The term “solidification” is the addition of
dry material where the liquids become bound to the material/reagent and will release little, or no liquids once compressed.)

Testing will need to be completed before liquid/wet wastes are approved for acceptance, solidification and disposal. Typically, liquid/wet wastes are reviewed for hazardous/non-hazardous categorization or other factors that would make it undesirable for disposal, such as high oil, salt or other constituents that could affect the biological environment within the landfill, significant odor potential or other similar factors. Once the liquid/wet waste material is deemed acceptable, test mixes are prepared (either in a lab or in the field) to see what ratios of admixtures/reagents can be used to make an appropriate mix for disposal. Consideration must be given to resulting moisture content (Are there no free liquids? Can the material be placed and compacted sufficiently?), short- and long-term liquids release (will the mix give up liquids once placed and surcharged by other wastes?), stability of the solidified materials (are they as strong as the rest of the landfill or will they provide weaker areas/slip planes that could cause failure?) and resulting recipe/solidification costs. Reagent/solidification agent costs directly affect the profitability/success of the operation as do mixing efforts and transportation of the blended materials to the landfill disposal location.

Read More… 

Making Sure Your Facility is Properly Equipped for CNG Conversion
Waste Advantage Magazine│ February 2019

Converting a fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) can make a lot of sense to reduce fuel costs. Typical considerations toward making this decision include the cost of the new vehicles as well as the fueling infrastructure. An often-overlooked component, that is essential for a fleet CNG conversion, is the cost to modify the existing shop facility to ensure those new vehicles can be serviced in a safe and code compliant environment. It is essential to understand the activities that occur in the shop as they have a direct impact on the CNG retrofit building modifications.

Existing Shop Typical Improvements
As the existing shop is assessed, the first question should be about what might be required for it to be CNG compliant. While a qualified engineer or specialty consultant should be engaged to perform the detailed analysis and scoping, there are several elements that will likely need to be provided, as well as several items to avoid.

The existing ventilation system will likely need to be upgraded to afford more air changes per hour. The shop (if it is heated) is likely heated with a gas-fired unit or radiant tube heaters. These are typically not compatible with a CNG shop and will need replacement.

Shop Height
The height of the shop has a direct impact on the ventilation requirements. If the shop is shorter than 20′-0″, it may not be entirely viable for a CNG retrofit.

Gas Detection
It is likely that the existing facility does not have a gas detection system. One may be required by the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Fire Separation
The walls that separate the shop from the administration offices will be required to be two-hour rated for a CNG Shop. If the current walls are not rated, upgrading these can be costly and disruptive to operations.

Read More… 

Cambridge Designs Long Lasting Facilities for the Waste, Recycling Industry
Waste360│ December 6, 2018

Designing materials recovery facilities (MRFs), hauling facilities, transfer stations and other types of facilities for the waste and recycling industry is no easy feat. But Cambridge Companies, Inc., a company that provides high-quality design, consulting, construction and general contracting services to a wide range of industries, enjoys the challenge and has helped develop safe, effective and efficient facilities for the waste and recycling industry for 30 years.

Cambridge got its start in the industry in Chicago, mainly designing transfer stations before taking on other types of design-build projects like MRFs and hauling facilities. And over the last 30 years, the company has completed approximately 150 solid waste projects within the U.S., with more currently in the works.

The company, which handles new projects as well as remodels and expansions, often has multiple projects going on at once, all in different stages. And for Cambridge, it’s important that those projects are cost effective, efficient, safe and durable because they need to withstand the large equipment and vehicles that operate at the facilities each day, as well as adapt to the ongoing changes that happen within the industry.  Read More… 

Facility Maintenance Schedules
Waste Advantage Magazine│ December 2018

Every facility owner has different requirements to keep in mind from a review and inspection perspective. These actions are important to protecting facilities and helping keep your workforce safe. Many of these items can help to catch maintenance items that are relatively cheap to address, but can become very costly if left un-addressed. In this article we will cover a few of the key items to keep in mind, no matter what kind of facility you own.

The life/safety systems are the most important systems within a building since they help keep employees safe during their time onsite.

This includes:

  • Fire Sprinkler Systems must be inspected every year by a certified professional to verify that they are functioning properly. In dry-pipe systems, the drip legs need to be drained at least monthly.
  • Strobe Lights and Exit Signage should be tested each year to ensure that they are working properly as well.
  • Emergency Lighting, Night Lights and Such should be checked each year.  Bulbs need to be replaced as well as batteries. Some facilities have gas detection for various sources such as methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, natural gas and many other items based on use of the facility. These sensors should be tested to ensure that they are functioning properly.
  • Fire Alarm Systems are a key component to most buildings and should be checked annually. This system is typically tied into the local fire department and notifies them of any issues. Each sensor should be checked on an annual basis and any faulty ones should be replaced.
  • Elevator Inspections should be done annually. Most states require annual inspection and certifications kept on file within the building itself.

Other life/safety systems to be maintained and inspected on a regular basis are eye wash units, strobes, backup lights, gas detection, etc.

Heating and Cooling Systems
There are several different types of systems on the market and all have their own maintenance and upkeep requirements. I recommend that a local HVAC professional is retained to do semi-annual maintenance on all units, which would include changing filters, checking Freon, checking gas connections, power connections, overall service maintenance and all the items that the manufacturer recommends. Most owners do not have someone onsite that is able to do all of the maintenance required to prolong the useful life of the equipment. As part of the HVAC system, the condensate lines should be checked because if they get clogged it will cause performance issues for the furnace and even cause it to shut down and not function at all.  Read More… 

Important Things to TAke into Consideration When Building Your Project Timeline
Waste Advantage Magazine│ October 2018

Project planning is difficult, to say the least. Many factors play into the overall success and completion of a project. There are permitting authorities, internal teams and departments, governmental agencies, sometimes competition (who may cause additional obstacles/challenges), neighbors causing issues and many other factors.

All the Phases
Construction projects typically involve various phases in their lifecycle. Those phases include project need identification, feasibility phase, design phase, permitting and procurement phase, construction phase and occupancy phase. Following are outlines of what is included in each of these phases.

Step 1: Project Need Identification
Identifying a project need is usually an internal process within a company where someone who is involved in the overall management of the company or management of a specific facility identifies a need.  During this phase, a rough scope is identified, a rough budget is developed and (depending on the company) a proforma is developed to help determine the overall project metrics, ROI, etc. Once this is completed, the project is either approved or denied or put on hold for a future year. If the project is approved, the Feasibility Phase begins.

Step 2: Feasibility Phase
During this phase, the team identifies a firm (either an architect or a design/build firm) to review the determined project need, develop preliminary designs, preliminary budgets, estimated schedules, and identify the potential permit process and other obstacles as well as any potential issues. Upon completion of the Feasibility Phase, a solid business case will be able to be put together to back-up or modify the one prepared in Step 1. If all obstacles are cleared and the feasibility report provides efficient data, it is time to begin the Design Phase.  Historically, I have felt that bringing in a design/build firm at the Feasibility Phase is crucial because they can help to think through construction means and methods as well as put together budgets based on their current sense of the market. The firm brought in to assist should also be knowledgeable of the industry as well as familiar with the operations of the facility you are looking to build or repair.  Read More… 

Determining When You Need Minor or Significant Repairs to Your Facility
Waste Advantage Magazine│ August 2018

When it comes to facility repairs, it seems like they always take a back seat to other business requirements that require funding. The reason being is that companies have a limited amount of working funds to spend and projects that usually take priority are ones that generate new revenue. Projects to fix or repair an existing facility are usually considered a business expense and not capital (from an accounting perspective) and, therefore, may have a negative connotation within the business itself. So how do you determine when it is a major or minor repair on a facility or when do you need outside help?

Common Points of Concern
As a whole, the waste industry is very rough on their buildings. Transfer stations, recycling facilities, container repair shops and solidification facilities all have varying types of wear and tear. Facilities that require material to be tipped onto the floor (whether it be MSW or recyclables) and then moved around with loaders takes a large toll on the structural integrity of your floor. This is especially true if it is not designed correctly to allow for the abuse it is going to take.  Container repair shops require a floor designed for dropping containers and moving them around. Solidification facilities require liquid materials to be combined with various mixing agents and excavators working the material to remove it from the pit. All of these facilities must have structural concrete components and metal buildings that are specifically designed for the application in use or you will have major repairs quickly. Another point of concern on these buildings (or an area that I have seen damaged frequently) is overhead garage doors. Whether it is the side framing or the overhead door itself, many overhead door companies are not familiar with the operations of these facilities and do not design them to be avoided by the different skill level of drivers entering the facility. Remember, not everyone entering these facilities owns a CDL; there are several third-party vendors that enter solid waste facilities.  These common points of concern should be taken into consideration when designing a facility to allow it to operate without requiring major maintenance every few months. But how do you know when repairs are absolutely required at your facility? Keep reading to find out a few hot buttons for when your facility needs to be assessed or repaired.  Read More… 

Ensuring Your New/Upgraded Facility Meets Necessary Codes/Regulations
Waste Advantage Magazine│ May 2018

Construction projects, whether they are new builds or upgrades, require compliance with federal, state, county and even local regulations. Each one of these entities may require different levels of approval and follow different processes. The earlier you involve the code officials in your process, the more likely you are to have a smooth transition through the stages of your project. These are many of the regulations and codes, different types of permits and the timelines that may be required.

Regulations and Codes
There are a patchwork of different policies, codes, best practices, requirements and laws that govern site development and construction. At the federal level, the ADA governs accessibility to and within a building. Every state has unique building code amendments and land use requirements. At the local level, municipalities and counties inject their own specific requirements. These are often the most variable and include unique zoning and land-use requirements, local utility and connection requirements, bulk design and aesthetic requirements, as well as local customs and opinions/rules. What is essential to remember about code officers as a property owner? Code officials deal with these codes/rules/policies every day; it is their everyday reality and the responsibility of the property owner (or their developer and representatives) to either know all the requirements, or to engage project team members, who will involve the necessary parties to ensure that all of the requirements are being addressed.

The result of these variable code and regulation overlays is that it is rare to design a facility once and use it repeatedly, nor can you expect to eliminate or shorten the permitting process by using a design previously approved in another area. Every project is reviewed individually and has its own unique characteristics. They all must go through the normal process required by the local municipality or governing jurisdiction and must be approved on its own merit.

As an owner, you must engage a team that has knowledge of the local process that can help manage it for you from start to finish.  However, they also must understand the operations, goals, budget, schedule requirements and everything else that makes your project unique.

It is best to build a team early in the project development process and schedule a meeting with the local authorities to make the personal introductions. While you are there, find out what their specific process looks like, understand what they are looking for, figure out where they draw the line when it comes to design and site permitting requirements, and where you can “push back” to  void any costly impacts including aesthetics, site layout, etc. This initial meeting should be used to ask questions and learn the process. Let the local code officials talk so you can learn. Do not push back at  his meeting but hear what they are saying and ask clarifying questions, so you absolutely understand the fine line between a “requirement” and a “recommendation”. Sometimes “recommendations” or “preferences” are used like “requirements” and if you do not clearly understand the difference, it may end up costing additional money.  Read More… 

Looking at an Expansion or New Facility?  The Initial Feasibility Phase Can Make or Break You
Waste Advantage Magazine│ April 2018

You have an opportunity to expand your operation … now what? Where do you start? This initial phase, whether it is called feasibility, assessment, scoping, preliminary design or any other name, is an
important piece to the project and cannot be taken lightly. You must get this right and you only have one chance to do that. No one wants to “go back to the well” for more money or miss their projected open/start date, which pushes back revenue projections and decreases ROI.  Getting through this phase with the most knowledgeable team possible to help dial in the need, come up with cost-effective and efficient designs, and accurate budgets and timelines will help a project be more successful from start to finish.

Initial Phase

The initial phase includes many different pieces that must be gathered early on and accurately. Some of the items accomplished in this phase are:

  • Operational review and assessment
  • Analysis of needs to determine options for expansion/new facility
  • Conceptual drawings
  • Conceptual schedule
  • Conceptual budget
  • Initial permit research
  • Initial utility availability
  • Existing building review/assessment
  • Site environmental assessments
  • Site zoning and setbacks

During this phase, as the owner, you must be able to truly analyze operations in terms of where it is today and where it is projected to be so that your project partner(s) can come up with solutions that are relevant to your immediate needs as well as considering future growth.  To do this properly, the right team members should be included, allowing the right amount of time and setting aside some capital to prepare the necessary items to be used in the business case.

There are several different stakeholders/participants in this phase that have very important roles and must be included in all discussions to get the best results. Not all parties will apply to all projects. The stakeholders could consist of:

  • Local Employees/Team Members
  • Local Management (GM or equivalent)
  • Regionally Based Management
  • Corporate Team
  • Designer or Design/Builder
  • Financing Partner (if required)
  • Local Permitting Agencies
  • Vendors/Suppliers

Let’s walk through the various roles of each stakeholder. Please keep in mind that these roles are different for every organization, so I am using general terms for the purposes of this article.  Read More… 

Site Safety Details to Take Into Consideration Before Breaking Ground
Waste Advantage Magazine│ February 2018

Site safety is a major concern at project sites. Prior to beginning any project, the contractor, owner and design team need to fully evaluate the impact of the construction on the actual site itself as well as the surrounding areas. The major topics we will cover in this article include the owner’s safety plan and requirements, the contractor’s safety plan, the municipality and/or traffic board requirements as well as other various factors that play into the design of the overall project safety plan. This needs to be a group effort to build and manage the plan—a single entity cannot complete an effective safety program by itself. Everyone has a different perspective/role and his/her input is invaluable to the design of the overall safety program.

The basic premise and assumptions for this article is that the project is:

  • Taking place in a more urban area that has a lot of car traffic but little foot traffic.
  • Ground-up construction project with additional operations onsite.
  • Employees will be visiting the project daily to go to work at the other buildings.
  • Visitors will be onsite periodically.

Owner Safety Requirements
Any design and construction firm must fully read and understand the owner’s safety requirements and incorporate them into the project safety plan.

Read More… 

Odor Control at Waste Disposal Facilities
Waste Advantage Magazine│ December 2017

The idea of “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) is a real thing in today’s world—and getting more prevalent. Odor is one of the main issues that comes up every time a waste disposal facility is looking to build or expand. While every resident produces waste or recyclable materials daily, none of them want to live near or see the facility where it ends up.  Nearby residents, whether homeowners or businesses, do not want waste facilities near their home or place of business for a lot of different reasons, but odor tends to be one of the primary ones. Odors from landfills, transfer stations, recycling facilities and other like sites have been an issue in the past as well as today. My expertise does not lie in treating landfills so we will not be discussing odor issues in relation to this type of waste disposal facility. However, it is possible to design a new or existing facility’s renovation to help owners manage waste properly and prevent odor issues or work with them to help eliminate them going forward.

They key to odor reduction is prevention. Every day, transfer stations and recycling facilities accept hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tons of waste. The facility itself is limited to the material it receives based on its permit, so while odor may be a non-issue at many facilities, it is at a few. In most cases, recycling facilities or MRFs accept clean waste that has little to no moisture or organic content, so they tend to have few, if any, odor issues. Dirty MRFs and transfer stations, on the other hand, take in all types of materials based on their permits from various environmental agencies throughout the U.S. Every facility has their own permit and their own requirements. When working with owners to design a facility, a few of the initial questions that should be asked include what type of material they can accept and how the material will be entering and leaving the facility. The goal with any facility that accepts waste is to get it out as fast as you can. Facilities should be designed for waste to be stored in a methodical order. This allows for the stored material to be efficiently removed from the floor, into tractor trailers and onto its next destination, typically a landfill. Getting the tipping floor empty daily is one way to reduce odors from a waste disposal facility. This is a method called “balancing your floor”. The inbound and outbound materials are analyzed on a daily basis, projected downtimes for your receiving landfill are factored in and a facility that can handle your waste daily is designed. This keeps waste in the transfer at all times through regular operations.

Read More… 

Best Practices: Tipping Floors
Waste Advantage Magazine│ November 2017

The Global Development Research Corporation ( defines tipping floors as “an unloading area for vehicles that are delivering MSW to a transfer station or incinerator.” While technically speaking, this is true, they are much more difficult to design and maintain than this simple description implies. There are also tipping floors that handle many different types of products beyond municipal solid waste (MSW). Many different companies out there argue that their way is the best, but, in reality, it boils down to:

  • What is right for the end user or owner of the facility?
  • What will serve their needs the best?
  • What will meet their design and operational objectives?

Tipping floors have been a constant topic of conversations for as long as they have existed. There are probably thousands of different ideas and concepts on the “right way” to design a tipping floor to withstand the given abuse of the facility’s operations. Some people focus on the concrete mix design, some focus on the aggregate, some provide a sacrificial wear layer and some install toppings. Again, there are many ways to go about designing a transfer station tipping floor. No transfer facility is created equal. They all need to be treated differently and the owner needs to provide information to the designers in order to ensure that all the pertinent information is being considered as a part of the tipping floor design. Not that it is an exact science, but you can impact the usable life of the floor by using the correct design for your facility. The main thing is to understand the operations of the facility. The owner, who will be dealing with the material on the floor on a daily basis, really determines how long a floor will last. This article will touch on some of the factors that must be included in the design.

The Materials
Tipping floors exist at a lot of different facilities. Anyone who takes in raw materials for processing or transferring technically has a tipping floor. For purposes of this audience we will focus on the solid waste industry, which typically have the following products on their tipping floors:

  • Construction and demolition debris,
  • Recycling materials,
  • Municipal solid waste and
  • A few others.

Read More… 

Proper Planning of a Project
Waste Advantage Magazine│ September 2017

So you have decided whom you want to work with on your next project. Congratulations! Now the hard work begins. This article will touch on the step from post-award through start of design and what needs to be accomplished in that phase in order to ensure that your project flows smoothly into the design phase. The process should be similar whether you have chosen a design/build firm or if you decided that you would prefer to hire an architect directly. The important part is that you have an idea and now that idea needs to be translated to reality by your design team.

The Initial Phase
This initial phase is called several different things in the marketplace. The term varies by company and is referred to as scoping, feasibility, pre-design, conceptual design, etc. This is the most important phase in your project’s development. The better things are defined in this phase, 1) the budget will be more accurate, 2) the timeline will be better defined and 3) the end solution will be better.  The first thing that should be gathered is the name and contact information for each project team member as well as their role and level of authority. This list will include owner team members, design team members as well as other members as needed such as the construction team. The importance of identifying each level of authority cannot be understated. This allows the design team to know who to go to for the decisions, feedback and clarifications within the project.  Read More… 

Technology is All the Rage
MSW Management│ September/October 2017

Technology continues to have an impactful and transformative effect on our world. Its reach even extends to the operation of transfer stations. The scope of these impacts cover many critical operations including loading, scaling, environmental compliance, and safety.  When conceptualized and implemented properly, these technologies should allow your facility to operate more efficiently, provide a safer work place, and minimize impacts on the environment.

Operational Efficiency
Ensuring transfer stations operate in an efficient manner is critical to maintaining facility capacity as well as keeping operating costs low. To that end, technology offers several approaches that impact different areas of operations.  The first would be the site entry and scaling. Sites typically need a scale house staffed at all times while the facility is in operation. Often times there are two staff members who deal with both in and out bound traffic. One approach, which may help this operation, would be to use a Remote Presence Unit. This unit provides a video screen and microphone with a ticket printer that allows vehicle operators to see and talk with staff and receive their tickets as well. The advantage with this approach is that scale operators can be pooled in one facility and they would be better able to cover multiple sites from one location.  Read More… 

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