Re-valuing construction materials and components through design for disassembly

Crowther, Philip (2015) Re-valuing construction materials and components through design for disassembly. In Thornton, Katherine (Ed.) Proceedings of Unmaking Waste: Transforming Production and Consumption in Time and Place, Zero Waste SA Research Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour, Adelaide, SA, pp. 261-269.

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Abstract

The construction industry accounts for a significant portion of the material consumption of our industrialised societies. That material consumption comes at an environmental cost, and when buildings and infrastructure projects are demolished and discarded, after their useful lifespan, that environmental cost remains largely unrecovered. The expected operational lifespan of modern buildings has become disturbingly short as buildings are replaced for reasons of changing cultural expectations, style, serviceability, locational obsolescence and economic viability. The same buildings however are not always physically or structurally obsolete; the materials and components within them are very often still completely serviceable. While there is some activity in the area of recycling of selected construction materials, such as steel and concrete, this is almost always in the form of down cycling or reprocessing. Very little of this material and component resource is reuse in a way that more effectively captures its potential.

One significant impediment to such reuse is that buildings are not designed in a way that facilitates easy recovery of materials and components; they are designed and built for speed of construction and quick economic returns, with little or no consideration of the longer term consequences of their physical matter.

This research project explores the potential for the recovery of materials and components if buildings were designed for such future recovery; a strategy of design for disassembly. This is not a new design philosophy; design for disassembly is well understood in product design and industrial design. There are also some architectural examples of design for disassembly; however these are specialist examples and there is no significant attempt to implement the strategy in the main stream construction industry. This paper presents research into the analysis of the embodied energy in buildings, highlighting its significance in comparison with operational energy. Analysis at material, component, and whole-of-building levels shows the potential benefits of strategically designing buildings for future disassembly to recover this embodied energy. Careful consideration at the early design stage can result in the deconstruction of significant portions of buildings and the recovery of their potential through higher order reuse and upcycling.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 87692
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: design, disassembly, reuse, architecture, construction
ISBN: 9780994336071
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100) > Architectural Design (120101)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Philip Crowther
Deposited On: 23 Sep 2015 23:13
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2015 21:26

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