Recycling of parts improves the eco-efficiency of buildings: in fact the reuse of construction parts is always worthwhile from the perspective of the environment, and can also be considerably cheaper than using secondary raw materials.
The production of building materials and construction itself are, together with energy consumption during the usage stage, the most significant factors associated with building stock that cause environmental load. By reusing salvaged parts, the embodied energy equivalent to that required in the manufacture of the new product is retained as well as their economic and cultural value.
The current focus in basis of design is easy and efficient constructability, but in the future the designer shall to assess how buildings can sensibly be repaired or deconstructed into parts and how to utilize the remaining service life of those parts in new applications. In addition, the use of natural resources will be optimized in the manufacturing processes used for building materials and products, and recyclable materials will be favoured.
In practical construction, planning for the purpose of reuse and recycling is seen in accordance with the requirements in configurable or modular solutions in which the structures and materials are long-lasting and easily reclaimed. With good planning, the maintainability and repair potential of buildings and building service technology can be facilitated and the expenses incurred reduced.
The best way to promote the reuse and recycling of salvaged building parts is to introduce a demolition plan already into the further planning associated with the project. It should be an essential component in the design concerning the management of the life cycle of buildings and structures. In the demolition plan, it is important to assess the material quantities that can be utilized in various ways, as well as the demolition methods available. These are currently presented only when applying for a permit to demolish a building.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland studied the reuse of structural elements in the ReUSE (Repetitive Utilization of Structural Elements) project, which recently ended. VTT also proposes the development requirements for improving the planning linked with demolition and repair. Of these, the most pivotal are the development of the guidelines and legislation supporting reuse, in addition to showing, by means of example targets, the commercial and ecological benefits that can be obtained.
The research aimed to improve the eco-efficiency of buildings is connected with the Ministry of the Environment’s Green Economy programme. The ReUSE project has been funded not only by the Ministry of the Environment but also by Finnish Wood Research Oy, Ekokem Oy, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Tampere University of Technology.