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Demolition site reuse workshop

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

By Jenni Särmä

Almost 70 people took part in an online workshop this May, looking at ways of improving the reuse of materials from demolition sites. Organised by our Helsinki Region partners - City of Vantaa, Umacon and Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre Ltd – the workshop was designed to share learning about the best ways to reuse building components, and identify what is needed to make reuse from demolition sites more mainstream.

Key themes:

It focused on four themes that followed the reuse process in chronological order:

1. Demolition project tendering – where reuse and recycling is pre-planned

2. The recommended pre-demolition audit – where recycling and reuse is documented (this is still an optional part of demolition projects, rather than mandatory)

3. Target customer groups – those who buy reused building materials

4. Online marketplaces – platforms where building components are posted for sale and reuse

Some of the key points emerging from both facilitators and participants included:

Facilitating reuse can be done in two ways: from organisation to organisation, and from organisation to consumer.

“When building components are reused, natural resources are saved because there is no need to manufacture new similar components. The impact of this is that the carbon footprint decreases. Reuse differs from recycling, which is when a material is processed further to turn it into something else, for instance, crushing up concrete to make aggregate.” - Jenni Särmä, Designer, Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre

Make reuse a requirement: For example, include a requirement for reuse to the contractor in the demolition project tender process and include it as in the criteria when evaluating applications. Additionally, consider what can be done to mandate reuse directly from the demolition, which could lead to savings in storage and logistical expenses.

Plan reuse into the process: Reuse is more likely to happen if it is factored early into the planning and demolition process, for example in tendering and evaluation – and this can also help to keep track of the reuse cost structure. Additionally, in some cases there could be opportunities to plan for the reuse of selected and named building components along with their intact removal after the components have been purchased from a network platform, rather than beforehand. Training should be provided to upskill employees to ensure the necessary skills are available to facilitate reuse. Designing out obsolescence and making materials and components more durable is another way to maximise their value.

Offering incentives and opportunities for reuse: Incentives and opportunities for contractors to reuse materials from demolition sites could drive reuse – for example offering a bonus to reuse materials – and the development and existence of local reuse platforms are essential to make it as simple and convenient as possible.

Use data and information: Data on waste, recyclable materials and reusable building parts from the demolition sites could be important metrics to help increase reuse. Data templates (such as the pre-demolition audit data template) and databases could provide key information on different building parts such as origin, quality and reuse potential. Various calculation tools and methods could show cost and carbon savings from reused building components; and the information could be invaluable in helping to pre-plan the intact removal of materials from demolition sites.

Logistics of reusing materials and components: A variety of logistics should be considered in reusing building components. For example, electronic and metal waste and white goods (refrigerators & freezers) need to go through an inspection process so they are safe to reuse. The ability to test reclaimed materials to determine their origin, quality and suitability for reuse is equally important.

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the reuse workshop and for providing valuable insights.

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