There is Life After Demolition: Designing for Deconstruction

The idea of creating a building that will have an expiration date is not a common one. In fact, the useful life of a structure is often given little consideration. When demolished, where will the materials go? Will they be disposed of in landfills or could they be reused in new projects? There are certain construction methods and materials that make this process easier. Others make reuse unfeasible, due to several factors.

The so-called Design for Deconstruction/Demolition (DfDD) considers how all decisions made in the design phase can increase the chances of reusing the building parts at the end of their useful life. The ultimate goal of the Design for Deconstruction/Demolition movement is to responsibly manage end-of-life building materials to minimize the consumption of raw materials. By capturing materials removed during the renovation or demolition of buildings and finding ways to reuse them in another building project or recycle them into a new product, the overall environmental impact of end-of-life building materials can be reduced. Architects and engineers can contribute to this movement by designing buildings that facilitate adaptation and renovation. Designing for Deconstruction is designing so that these resources can be economically recovered and reused. Taking the example of Canada, buildings are the largest consumers of raw materials and energy and the biggest contributors to the waste stream by weight, which equates to 3.4 million tons of building materials sent to landfills annually, representing an estimated 1.8 million tons of incorporated carbon. The theoretical model works very well. But in practice, things are much more complex. Demolitions are usually carried out quickly, making it impossible to reuse a large part of the materials. First, it is essential to address the proper disassembly and separation of the parts that make up the building. But it is also essential that the project, from the beginning, seeks methods and solutions that reduce or eliminate waste, including products that are easily detached and disassembled as well as good quality materials that allow reuse and avoid harmful and polluting chemicals.

Unfortunately the decision to reuse or repurpose materials, naturally depends on the cost of demolition. The beginning of the process (abatement and demolition) to the end of the process (reuse, recycling, or disposal)? Call us to discuss your design for demolition on your next project.