America's landfills may be a little less, well, filled in the near future if innovators such as Frank Little keep making trips to the patent office. Little, the founder of Magnolia, Texas-based Tax Advantage Design, recently unveiled a demountable drywall tape system that provides an alternative means of hanging sheetrock - one that allows the deconstruction and reuse of a material that traditionally has been a major ingredient in jobsite refuse headed for the dump. With its groundbreaking tape and screw connectors, the Green-Zip-Tape attachment system allows easy removal and reinstallation of drywall for structural repairs inside the building cavity. The system replaces traditional nailing mechanisms, which can damage drywall and inhibit its reuse.

Little isn't the only inventor pondering how the 100 million+ tons of construction waste sent to landfills each year might otherwise be diverted and repurposed. He's just one of a spate of change agents recognized in the inaugural Lifecycle Building Challenge, a competition launched this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the Building Materials Reuse Association, the American Institute of Architects, and West Coast Green.

Additional winning prototypes lauded last week at the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco include factory-built mobile homes designed for both disaster relief and permanent use; a portable, 11,100-square-foot park pavilion that can be disassembled into four modules and trucked to a new location for reassembly; and a reusable composite slab component system that uses specialized bolts, serrated clamps, and cast-in channels to transform slab from a throw-away material into one that boasts nearly 100 percent reusability.

Modular housing prototypes drew ample acclaim in this, the competition's first year, including a submission by Texas A&M University's 2007 Solar Decathlon Team that parlays the software industry's concept into a user-friendly building system of configurable, plug-and-play housing modules based on a standardized set of grid protocols and joint connections. Embedded radio frequency identification tags can be used to take inventory and check the shelf life of components.

Building materials account for more than a third of the solid waste stream in the U.S. The Lifecycle Building Challenge seeks to change those statistics by honoring practices that divert material from landfills, enable the reuse of salvaged components, and reduce the energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing and transporting building materials. For a complete rundown of this year's winners, with project descriptions visit

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.