Building designed for reuse reduces emissions by 88%

By Lucy Jones  November 16th, 2020

How circular design is tackling the construction industry's waste problem and creating the buildings of the future.

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The construction industry is responsible for a third of our waste. And, over 75 per cent of the construction waste that is sent to landfill is useable material such as concrete, bricks and timber. The circular economy principle of reuse may offer a solution to this waste problem.

A new Curtin University building designed for reuse proves that circular building practices can deliver impressive environmental benefits. The Legacy Living Lab is a modular structure that is designed to be dismantled and reused.

A research report about the building's impact found that the building saves 19 tonnes of construction material from going to landfill when compared with standard building industry practices. This results in an 88 per cent decrease in the greenhouse gas emissions of the building.

"The Legacy Living Lab (L3) is a highly functional, state-of-the-art building with offices and space for collaboration. Yet it can be taken apart – deconstructed or disassembled – moved and reused anywhere within weeks," the report's authors write in an article for The Conversation.

"Findings from studying the environmental impact of this facility point towards a resounding yes to the question of whether reuse practices can be adopted for buildings."

The building is made out of reused steel frames, steel foundations and cladding that can easily be disassembled. At the end of its first life, the structure can be broken down into eight modules, relocated to a new site and reused, rather than bring demolished.

"Modular buildings are made of box-shaped structures, built off-site and delivered on-site in a matter of hours. This has the added benefit of minimum disruption for our cities compared to traditional construction sites," the researchers explain.

"Modular buildings come in all shapes and dimensions, from tiny houses to skyscrapers and factories. They are often more cost-effective to produce than traditional double-brick constructions. Thus, as well as a minimal environmental footprint, the advantages of modular buildings include flexibility, speed and cost."

Modular buildings could create a new market for reusable building materials. The desgin-for-dissasembly approach adopted by Curtin University keeps building products in the material loop in their original form, instead of sending them to landfill or recycling them into new products. This circular approach mimics the closed-loop systems of nature.

"Similar to the way nature operates, the team at CUSP created a building whose byproducts from one process remain in the loop as inputs for the next, keeping waste to a minimum. In this way, disassembly becomes much safer and cleaner, which benefits our cities and their residents," the research team explains.

This project shows that circular building design can deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits.

Head here to read the research report in full.

Circular Economy News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 

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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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