We Australians are a competitive bunch. When it comes to cricket, rugby and the Olympics, this is a good thing. When it comes to being the best at trashing the environment? Not so much.
As a nation, we are world leaders in waste production with around 50 million tonnes churned out per year. With a population of around 25 million, that’s 2 tonnes of rubbish per person. We hate to say it but, approximately 40% of this waste comes from the construction industry. These humbling statistics come from a Waste Production Report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2013. Their projection is that, as our population continues to grow, our wastefulness will grow with it.
As you might’ve noticed looking at that chart, our waste is bubbling out at a greater rate than our population. Meaning the problem isn’t about how many babies we’re making. It’s about how much stuff we’re wasting.
How do we fix Australia’s waste problem?
The answer is best demonstrated with an unlikely story. Along stretches of highway, removed from the cities in Australia, you’ll often see abandoned cars, resting in their own skid marks on the side of the road. Stolen, thrashed, raided and then discarded. As the weeks go by, these vehicles disappear, one piece at a time. The value people find in them, even when there’s barely anything left, is amazing.
While the pilferers’ intentions are definitely not philanthropic, there is something admirable buried deep within their actions. They see the possibility where others see waste. You have to strip away a whole lot of criminality to find this good but it’s there, nonetheless.
A purified version of this ethos can be seen in the building industry, where a wave of sustainable practices, techniques and materials has been steadily flowing into the market. Below, we take you through the latest trends in the industry and how you can use them to your benefit.
Recycling: the future of building
Deconstruction vs demolition
The demolition sector of the construction industry is currently undergoing a collective shift in mindset from destruction to deconstruction. Rather than destroying old structures and erecting brand new buildings in their place, companies are undertaking detailed surveys to ensure as much as possible can be salvaged. While it is often a time-consuming and labour-intensive process, dismantling old buildings and reusing their valuable parts reduces your need for new materials. So there is a worthy trade-off.
Renovating, reusing and recycling have taken over from the old “demolish and rebuild” paradigm. With the deconstruction industry taking off, architects are beginning to design houses with their life-cycle, eventual reinvention and deconstruction in mind. This means minimising the complexity of design and construction, using only a select few materials that will be worth recovering, and keeping accurate records and detailed plans.
The benefits of deconstruction and recycling
- Waste reduction + reduced need for new materials = money saved;
- Reusing old wood, and other materials, can add a unique look to the new building;
- Being eco-friendly gives you a competitive edge in the market;
- Our grand kids will still have trees and oxygen, and all that great stuff.
When you can’t recycle: go green
Green, or sustainable, building materials are defined, quite simply, as having a low environmental impact. This gives you a lot of scope. What you’re looking for is anything that will have minimal impact on:
- the environment;
- non-renewable resources;
- the health of humans who come in contact with it.
When considering your choice of materials and methods of construction, it is important to factor in the entire life-cycle of the structure you’re building, not just the immediate environmental impact. How is it going to hold up over time? How practical will it be long term? How easily can it be re-purposed or recycled down the track?
The need for both immediate and long term thinking has spawned trends like the wildly popular tiny house movement. Building small, optimally-designed houses cuts drastically back on resources and waste. Customers are already primed for cost-saving and environmental preservation so are happy to opt for robust, low-maintenance building materials and recycled options.
The benefits of using sustainable materials
- You can tap into the hugely popular tiny home movement;
- Once again, minimising waste = maximising profits;
- There is a huge scope for combining recycled and sustainable products;
- Trees are nicer to look at than landfill.