Improvements in construction waste management just might hinge more on rethinking the entire cycle of building. With today’s technologies is it really wise to continue using the same building cycle that has prevailed for thousands of years? Why are we still locked into a build, use, tear down, rebuild cycle? Maybe it’s not possible to build everyday structures that will last for thousands of years. But it is becoming increasingly evident that it is possible to build structures that are recyclable. That changes the building cycle to one of build, use, deconstruct, reassemble, and reuse. That will have a major effect on construction waste management and on the sustainability of the built environment.

The Cycle Begins

Use Starts the Decay

Demo Floods Waste Stream

Rebuilding Completes One Cycle and Starts It All Over Again

By Monica Albert

As time progresses, every industry is finding new innovative ways to cut down on their waste. The movement started quite some time back with the introduction of Kaizan production techniques, but now waste management is more in the limelight than ever before. Businesses have now truly realized that waste is something that cuts into their bottom line. The more the waste, the higher the costs of safe disposal. Also, reducing waste in most cases reduces the inputs – the necessary material required to produce something and thus the eventual costs.

The construction industry in the developed world, especially the UK is now increasingly focusing on construction waste management. By focusing on how to reduce waste, the construction industry is re-visiting the drawing board to find how to pump out the waste, and how to abolish it at source.

This will save money on many important and necessary things like bricks, word and even concrete. Studies have shown that waste can be as much as 10 to 15% of the materials that go into a building.  And in the U.S construction waste accounts for as much as 25 percent of the solid waste production. Barely 20 percent of construction waste gets recycled.

The Circular Building

The Circular Building Project in the UK is a practical experiment of how you can eliminate waste in the construction industry by re-thinking the building design itself. The question was:

“Can we design a building which at the end of its useful life would not need to be demolished but rather could be taken apart and all of its components re-used.”

The challenge of making a building which can be re-used, prompts one to re-think everything, and leads to profound changes in design and construction priorities. Not only do changes in construction take place, but one also has to forge strong relationships with suppliers and designers in order to get the best “fit” of materials for new challenges.

The construction challenge of the Circular Building led to the following new ideas (a few chosen from the many) cropping up:

  • Using mechanical and push-fit connections instead of adhesives in order to allow de-construction
  • Avoiding wet trades
  • Installing a low voltage electric system which is off-grid, and ensuring that the system is easy to maintain.
  • Ventilation is provided using prototype equipment which is made from recycled plastic, cardboard and re-manufactured soda cans.
  • Incorporation of QR codes to identify which material comprise the house’s structure and interior finishes. These codes help when the house is de-constructed.

The Construction Waste Management Challenges

The circular house has shown that deconstruction rather than demolition is a very real possibility. However, as with all new things one has to calculate the carbon and labor cost of deconstruction to see if it is as environmental friendly as it appears at face value. To kick-start greater focus on waste management, Watershed Materials is working to make a machine that produces new concrete masonry units by compressing demolition materials sourced on site. More companies need to step up, not just for the environment but for improving the bottom line.

“Monica Albert is a passionate blogger who loves to write on construction and heavy machinery industry. She has a deep down interest in agriculture and is featured writer at various authoritative blogs in this niche such as eQuipSellsit, a trucking and heavy machinery listing website. Follow her @MonicaAlbert99 for all the updates.”
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