What a waste…physical renovation waste


There’s no doubt about it, we live in a throwaway society. Are you aware that renovating or demolishing a house to build a new one, generates up to 200 tonnes of ‘waste’,? …that’s roughly the equivalent of 36 fully grown African elephants!)

And that around 80 percent of this construction waste is actually made up of discarded materials that are ideal for re-use or recycling. saving vast quantities of energy, water, resources, and money.

A study recently undertaken by the United Nations stated that we may have as little as 12 years to avert a global climate change disaster!  Hopefully, this is an exaggeration because that is a pretty dire prediction. Whether you believe this line of thought or not.  I don’t think many people would disagree that our attitude to waste which is a large part of the environmental issues we face as part of the global warming problem, needs to change or at the very least go through a major readjustment. Starting now.

And the renovation industry can definitely do its part.

The current mode of thinking is that it is quicker and easier to just demolish and replace the old with something shiny and new. We are complacent and are conditioned to think short term. We live in a disposable age. But at what cost to the environment and to ourselves.


How can we reduce the amount of physical waste


Take a Collaborative Approach

If you’re using an architect for your renovation, it’s common to have very little collaboration between them and the builder. Any errors or issues are usually spotted after construction has begun, requiring expensive and wasteful rework.

Get your project team including your builder to work collaboratively to work out ways to possibly reduce waste. it’s important to involve all parties early in the project and to encourage cooperation. And to choose your project team with this in mind. Some professionals will be more open and experienced than others.Attitudes to waste are changing and the renovation industry needs to change with it.


Avoid complete destruction

Ask your builder not to demolish the building, but to deconstruct it. Deconstruction means taking a building apart and recovering materials for recycling and reuse. Don’t forget, part of your building costs cover waste disposal.  It may be possible to salvage some materials for reuse or sale. Of course, this can sometimes take longer and cost more. So you’ll need to balance out your priorities versus costs…


Design is a big part

Waste is often treated as an inevitable and expected impact of renovating and is usually factored into your building budget with no serious attempt to reduce it.

By prioritising and raising the issue early with your project team, they can make decisions at the design stage or earlier that could reduce waste later.

Often the design professionals don’t see their decisions contributing to waste – yet their choices can have a huge impact.

One simple early decision that can dramatically reduce waste is designing with standard material sizes in mind. If you have a ceiling height that does not match the plasterboard sheet, you end up with a tiny little strip that has to be cut out of a full sheet.  Obviously, this strategy isn’t going to work in every situation but, but sensitive design can make clever choices, and help reduce overall waste.


Material Selection plays a big part

It’s a fact, good-quality materials last longer, definitely help with ongoing maintenance. Choosing a business that uses minimal packaging also reduces waste.

Reusing materials from your original house may also be an option (but you will need to discuss this with architect and builder at the beginning of the project). Finally, using materials with recycled content is also a great option, and helps boost our recycling industry.


Commit To Making A Difference

The first step is understanding that there is in fact a big problem and it’s actually possible to make a difference. Each one of us can contribute to reuse and recycling becoming our new norm.

Sustainability is becoming a bigger and bigger issue with many looking at their material choices,  innovation and the long-term footprint of their homes. The next step is incorporating recycling and reuse more.

In March 2017 the Housing Industry Association released data suggesting the Australian residential building industry will increasingly become more dependent on renovation work rather than new construction, So If you’re thinking about renovating your home, consider incorporating efficient and low waste strategies into your renovation to reduce costs and landfill.


Waste Wrap up

Waste is such a big issue generally, so in reality, we’ve only scratched the surface in our discussion of the waste commonly encountered during a renovation. but change starts with each individual doing their bit, and if we understand it more and work together, all these things can be minimised. So make reducing all the types of waste a priority in your renovation strategy both during the planning, build and after in your day to day living.

Have you seen the other posts in this ‘What a Waste…’ series:

Waste. Waste (not so glorious) renovation waste

What a Waste…of time & money

What a Waste…the Renovation Rollercoaster


While every effort has been made to provide accurate information, The Zen Reno does not guarantee that this blog article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use. It is for information purposes only and expert advice should be sought regarding how this issue might affect your particular project.

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