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How to optimize building space and material use

The optimization regarding materials used in buildings is a very important factor in the life cycle environmental impact. The use of greener materials and the incorporation of processes that reduce pollution and waste stream is a key factor in diminishing the carbon footprint of building space. Whole Building Design Guide released an article that proposes different ways in order to allow constructos, building designers and architects to plan taking into account a proper optimization of building space and material use.

“As the growing global economy expands the demand for raw materials, it is no longer sensible to throw away much of what we consider construction and demolition waste. Using a "cradle-to-cradle" approach, while incorporating appropriate environmental controls, where necessary, the "waste" from one generation can become the "raw material" of the next”.

Recycling must be done in an environmentally acceptable manner, the reuse of construction and demolition materials can have numerous positive effects such as:

  • Conserving raw materials

  • Offsetting impacts associated with the input of virgin materials into construction and renovation of buildings and infrastructure

  • Reduction of landfilling impacts.

  • Conservation of landfill space.

Let’s revise some recommendations that Whole Building Design Guides gives to make this come true:

Salvage and Utilize Existing Facilities, Products and Equipment:

  • Use reconditioned products and equipment, such as furniture, where economically feasible and resource efficient.

  • Evaluate whether existing building components, such as windows or metal door frames, could be incorporated into new construction or renovations.

  • Employ regionally appropriate design that considers local resources and climate conditions.

  • When using existing facilities, products and equipment, work to find ways to reduce potential sources of toxicity (e.g., PCBs in lighting ballasts, paints, caulks and sealants, lead and cadmium in paints, and asbestos) and to improve energy and water efficiency.

Produce Flexible Facilities With Spaces That Are Adaptable And Utilize Building components that be disassembled and reused or recycled:

  • Design major systems with differing functions and lifespans to promote disentanglement.

  • Design and provide access to the connections that allow disassembly.

  • Include adaptable, re-configurable interior systems.

  • Deconstruct, re-configure, and reuse interior systems to include demountable partitions, suspended ceiling/lighting systems, raised floors, and infrastructure delivery systems during building renovation or adaptation.

  • Utilize building materials with recycled content.

Reduce Overall material Use Through Optimizing Building Size

  • Reduce overall building size by optimizing functional relationships between program spaces and circulation, adhering to target utilization rates (number of square feet per person or unit), and designing individual spaces to accommodate multiple functions.

  • Design buildings utilizing standard commercially available material sizes, to conserve resources and reduce waste.

Evaluate Environmental Preferability Using Life Cycle Perspective

  • Purchase environmentally preferable products as described in EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program, which promote Federal Government procurement of products and services that have reduced impacts on human health and the environment over their life cycle.

  • Within an acceptable category of product, use materials and assemblies with the highest percentage available of post-consumer or post-industrial recycled content.

  • The life-cycle of a product includes sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, distribution, retailing, installation, use of the product, and management of the product when it is no longer needed (through reuse, repair, upgrading, recycling, or safe disposal). To capture the benefits of reuse, repair, upgrading and/or recycling, analyze the impact offsets that can be accomplished when the product is used in place of a virgin material in another building or infrastructure.

MKThink works at the intersection of people, place and environment. As trends change, so does the balance of that intersection, which means we need to re-think how we used to do things. Let us work with you to see where the future is going and how you want to shape it. To find out more, contact us.


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