Designing for Eco-Friendly Deconstruction
Wednesday, December 25, 2013, 11 Months Ago, Comments 
Industrial demolition and other forms of demolition contribute to the over 74 million tons of related debris that ends up in landfills each year.
When you mention commercial demolition, it’s common for people to imagine a building imploding into a pile of rubble or a wrecking ball slamming into the side of a building. Industrial demolition and other forms of demolition contribute to the over 74 million tons of related debris that ends up in landfills each year. By planning for deconstruction during a building project’s initial design phases, contractors can lower building removal costs, conserve landfill space, reduce the environmental impact to the site as well as create job opportunities.
Commercial Deconstruction Explained
Deconstruction is an alternative building removal method that converts would-be refuse into resources. Instead of quickly toppling a building, anything that can be removed is taken out. The building gets dismantled from the top down and scrap metal demolition takes place. The process reduces noise by up to 23 decibels and dust by up to 90 percent.
Materials that contractors can reuse from a building site include:
- Lighting fixtures
- Metal frames
- Shelving and cabinets
- Wood beams and dimensional lumber
- Bathroom fixtures
- Crushed concrete
Commercial demolition contractors find that many of the non-salvageable materials in a deconstruction project are recyclable, which helps reduce a project’s overall waste and expenses.
How to Plan for an Eco-Friendly Design and Eventual Deconstruction
1. Include construction and demolition recovery plans in the project design. Making a building simple to deconstruct starts in the initial design phases of a project. The contractor should aim for a design that minimizes depreciation by choosing performance-based materials that have long life spans and are worth the recovery efforts. The firm should create a deconstruction and scrap metal demolition plan based on the construction process, and record adaptations to the building during its life. As the contractor determines the building’s elements and components, it should design panelized and modular elements that fit into common dimensional standards, as well as plan for ease of separation.
2. Include recycling requirements in the project goals and contract. In addition to using materials that are designed for separation, a contractor should consider the ability to recycle or remanufacture a material, as well as the bio-degradation of non-recyclable materials. During the contracting process, it’s wise to submit a resources management plan that details how the firm plans to achieve specific material recovery goals in addition to an outline of reuse and recycling goals.
3. Use local and renewable materials during construction. Contractors can gain access to local, salvaged and renewable materials from area brokers, auctions, site sales or materials salvaged from industrial demolition sites. The materials should be the least toxic resources available and promote good indoor air quality.
4. Facilitate deconstruction with information. To help facilitate a project’s deconstruction, there must be a plan to retain information about a building’s construction and deconstruction details through the decades of its existence. In addition to documenting the construction plans, it’s a good idea to include information about the systems that are unexposed—such as roof’s frame and the utilities—in a dedicated library-like area of the building that has physical and digital copies of the latest designs. Permanent signage in areas like maintenance and utility rooms can also aid future deconstruction teams.
Sustainability, green building design and deconstruction are cost-efficient options for today’s contractors that reduce the consumption of energy, raw materials and pollution. In long run, designing for deconstruction may also be profitable for a contracting firm as it offers a strategic market advantage.
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