Portland Demolition Experts Talk Designing Building with Demolition and Asset Recovery in Mind

Scrap MetalSo-called “cradle to cradle” or “sustainable design” includes recycling considerations in the design process. So while designing a chair, the creator will consider how the chair materials can be dismantled and recycled. Parts may be designed for eventual disassembly. Materials may be chosen for their recyclability. This same earth-friendly design approach is gaining popularity in architecture. Forward-thinking building designers are partnering up with demolition and asset recovery experts to create easily recyclable structures, thereby reducing or eliminating C&D waste.

Designing for deconstruction can be something as simple as avoiding toxic, stubborn adhesives. Or, it can be as complex as inventing a whole new way to create foundational slabs. Typically, the concrete foundation pad cannot be repurposed whole, as the concrete is poured over steel reinforcements to create a solid base. However, designing for deconstruction enthusiast Northeastern professor Jerry Hajjar proposes clamping preformed concrete planks onto steel girders, so that everything can be disassembled and reused in other buildings.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that architects are pursuing design for deconstruction.

Building Design Approaches that Facilitate Demolition & Reycling

–Innovative building materials, such as recyclable steel foam, can increase overall energy efficiency.
–LEED standards, which reward points for recycling building materials. Recycling 50% of a building returns one point, while recycling 75% or better earns 2 points. Additional points may be scored for reusing demolished building materials in new construction on site.
–Repurposing buildings that are no longer useful. For instance, urban revitalization efforts in Portland, Oregon’s pearl district turned defunct warehouses into hip condos and office spaces.
–“Node points,” where structural elements come together, are designed for easy deconstruction at the end of the building’s life cycle.
–Avoiding hazardous materials that will be impossible to recycle.

From Tokyo to Portland, demolition techniques are also being refined to boost energy efficiency. Taisei Corporation in Japan, for instance, has been dismantling skyscrapers floor-by-floor, using cranes that actually harvest energy during descent.

Overall, the construction industry is slowly shifting from a linear model to a circular approach. Instead of seeing an old building as an end point in the construction process, more and more designers see it as the locus of a new building. Design for Demolition (DFD) approaches will lead our society toward a more sustainable future. By designing for decommissioning, architects can make the demolition and asset recovery process much more efficient.

[photo by: daveparker on Flickr via CC License]

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