A waste management system for small and medium enterprises engaged in office building retrofit projects

Li, Mei (2012) A waste management system for small and medium enterprises engaged in office building retrofit projects. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Waste management and minimisation is considered to be an important issue for achieving sustainability in the construction industry. Retrofit projects generate less waste than demolitions and new builds, but they possess unique features and require waste management approaches that are different to traditional new builds. With the increasing demand for more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable office spaces, the office building retrofit market is growing in capital cities around Australia with a high level of refurbishment needed for existing aging properties. Restricted site space and uncertain delivery process in these projects make it a major challenge to manage waste effectively.

The labour-intensive nature of retrofit projects creates the need for the involvement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as subcontractors in on-site works. SMEs are familiar with on-site waste generation but are not as actively motivated and engaged in waste management activities as the stakeholders in other construction projects in the industry. SMEs’ responsibilities for waste management in office building retrofit projects need to be identified and adapted to the work delivery processes and the waste management system supported by project stakeholders.

The existing literature provides an understanding of how to manage construction waste that is already generated and how to increase the waste recovery rate for office building retrofit projects. However, previous research has not developed theories or practical solutions that can guide project stakeholders to understand the specific waste generation process and effectively plan for and manage waste in ongoing project works. No appropriate method has been established for the potential role and capability of SMEs to manage and minimise waste from their subcontracting works.

This research probes into the characteristics of office building retrofit project delivery with the aim to develop specific tools to manage waste and incorporate SMEs in this process in an appropriate and effective way. Based on an extensive literature review, the research firstly developed a questionnaire survey to identify the critical factors of on-site waste generation in office building retrofit projects.

Semi-structured interviews were then utilised to validate the critical waste factors and establish the interrelationships between the factors. The interviews served another important function of identifying the current problems of waste management in the industry and the performance of SMEs in this area. Interviewees’ opinions on remedies to the problems were also collected. On the foundation of the findings from the questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews, two waste planning and management strategies were identified for the dismantling phase and fit-out phase of office building retrofit projects, respectively. Two models were then established to organize SMEs’ waste management activities, including a work process-based integrated waste planning model for the dismantling phase and a system dynamics model for the fit-out phase. In order to apply the models in real practice, procedures were developed to guide SMEs’ work flow in on-site waste planning and management. In addition, a collaboration framework was established for SMEs and other project stakeholders for effective waste planning and management.

Furthermore, an organisational engagement strategy was developed to improve SME waste management practices. Three case studies were conducted to validate and finalise the research deliverables.

This research extends the current literature that mostly covers waste management plans in new build projects, by presenting the knowledge and understanding of addressing waste problems in retrofit projects. It provides practical tools and guidance for industry practitioners to effectively manage the waste generation processes in office building retrofit projects. It can also promote industry-level recognition of the role of SMEs and their performance in on-site waste management.

Impact and interest:

3 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 57325
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Yang, Jay, Cheung, Fiona, & Li, Qiming
Keywords: waste management, waste generation, office building retrofit, SMEs
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Feb 2013 06:34
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 10:53

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