The construction industry has a long-standing reputation as a key polluter. Conventional demolition practices significantly decrease a project’s sustainability. The debris, emissions and municipal solid waste (MSW) produced by builders create environmental conservation challenges.
Researchers evaluated the industry’s sustainability limitations and developed practical solutions. Companies can enhance on-site recycling to reduce surface-level and atmospheric pollution. They can utilize deconstruction, reusable materials, repurposed goods and eco-conscious employee training practices to minimize construction waste.
What Is the Problem With Construction Waste?
The construction industry produces nearly 600 million tons of debris-related waste annually. It also supports a significant quantity of greenhouse gas emissions deriving from material manufacturing. Conventional building practices focus on delivering quality work for low prices, optimizing a company’s profits.
In many scenarios, demolishing buildings and tossing excess materials is more cost-effective than salvaging them. When companies throw away used items, they create landfill pollution and fuel future production emissions. The concrete manufacturing industry alone produces 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
When the construction industry tosses reusable concrete, it increases the demand for material production, increasing emissions. Over time, air pollution causes atmospheric changes, fueling the enhanced greenhouse effect. Companies can prevent ecological degradation by recycling used materials.
Improving Recycling on Construction Sites
Builders can improve their access to recycled materials on construction sites by engaging in deconstruction instead of demolition. Deconstruction disassembles a structure, collecting all reusable elements. It reduces debris pollution and material manufacturing emissions.
Portland, Oregon, is banning all demolition projects, requiring deconstruction. It plans on accessing 8 million pounds of recycled materials for future projects. The ban will decrease emissions, create jobs, lower environmental impacts and increase the supply of reusable building elements.
Companies can also improve their sustainability levels by building with recyclable materials. Instead of using single-use products, builders can utilize long-lasting products like steel to reduce landfill waste. Stainless steel beams and springs are 100% recyclable, powering a circular economy.
Professionals can melt down the material and remold it or reuse it in its natural state. Glass, concrete, drywall and wood are also recyclable, helping future builders shrink their carbon footprints and lower material costs.
Innovative Ways to Build With Recycled Materials
Modular construction allows builders to salvage and reuse materials. It uses off-site building processes to create portions of a structure inside a facility. After constructing the modules, professionals assemble them on-site, producing the whole building.
Professionals develop multiple projects at once during modular construction. When they have excess materials from one module, they can reuse them on another project instead of throwing them away. Over time, the repurposing process significantly decreases emissions and landfill waste.
Companies can also reduce their MSW by using damaged materials for exterior building projects. Some professionals repurpose crushed concrete from foundations, creating walkways and geometric wall patterns. They can also crush the material into a powder, producing more concrete for all construction needs.
Similarly, individuals repurpose wood from walls and ceilings to create doors and beams. Over time, repurposing old building materials can significantly improve environmental conditions.
Advantages of Reuse in Construction
There are various benefits of recycling building materials. The most notable advantage is waste reduction. After a country maxes out on MSW disposal space, it will face significant ecological challenges. Companies can reduce future degradation by conserving natural resources.
Many believe material recycling may cause adverse economic effects due to less demand for new products. In response, the construction industry discovered methods of restructuring and selling reused products, creating a circular economy. Supporting sustainable jobs and businesses can promote global conservation efforts.
Companies may also improve their customer appeal by using recycled building materials. Nearly two-thirds of consumers favor sustainably produced goods and services over ecologically harmful alternatives. Builders can remain competitive in the construction industry by adopting eco-conscious practices.
Catering to the majority of consumers and reducing material waste can also improve a builder’s profitability. Recycling products decreases building costs and helps builders shrink their carbon footprints to abide by national carbon-neutrality regulations.
Recycling to Improve Construction Sustainability
In some cases, demolition is a necessary construction practice. If a building becomes a hazard, costs more to deconstruct or has irreparable damage, professionals may tear it down. They can still salvage some materials, increasing their sustainability, using selective deconstruction.