5 Rs improve resource efficiency in construction

Zero waste objective drives a rethink of industry practices
Thursday, February 21, 2013
By Renée Gratton

Mission 2030 sets a target to eliminate construction, renovation and demolition waste from landfill over the next 18 years. This, however, is really just the first objective of the Construction Resources Initiatives (CRI) Council’s broader mandate for industry-driven change.

The non-profit, non-partisan, building industry-led organization is exploring ways to attain the interrelated goals of zero waste and sustainable development, drawing on its stakeholders’ integrated body of knowledge. This recognizes, too, that the flipside of zero waste is the efficient use of construction, renovation and demolition resources.

To some, zero waste is a purist visionary goal; to others, it is a philosophy or concept. To the CRI Council, it is a journey to sustainable capitalism, which incorporates two more Rs into the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ formula. This pushes the industry to ‘rethink’ design, purchasing and practices, and acknowledge the role that ‘recovery,’ through energy from waste might play.

Around the world, landfills are now ranked fourth among contributors to global warming after energy, transportation and industries. In Canada, construction, renovation and demolition waste is estimated to make up more than 20 per cent of the municipal waste stream, and approximately 30 per cent of the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) waste stream. Each province has its own regulations to govern waste, while the federal government oversees hazardous waste – regulatory silos that have proven ineffective in reducing overall waste production and related negative environmental, social and economical impacts.

With its Mission 2030 initiative, the CRI Council calls for integration of all primary stakeholders to make better decisions early in the design-build and industrial design processes. That means exploring ways to reduce the overall volume of waste, enabling the reuse, recycling, salvaging, composting or even recovery for energy of more than 95 per cent of all construction and demolition waste, effectively removing it from the ICI waste stream.

In April 2012, the core group of volunteers invited a wide range of leaders and innovators to further advance this initiative and its education plan at a leaders workshop in Wakefield, Que. The CRI Council provides an environment for participants to better understand the challenges and opportunities of zero waste, to support each other through the transformation journey and creatively inspire others in making better scientifically-based decisions to influence markets in decoupling, or doing more with fewer natural resources, in a simple measurable way.

As with the leaders workshop, industry must draw on creativity – already shown to be a vital leadership skill for the 21st century – to find solutions based in the fundamentals of sustainable development. The CRI Council represents an integrated and non-partisan approach to support stakeholders and prioritize resource efficiency as decision makers contemplate building and product design, construction practices, purchasing, policies, operations and maintenance.

The following reduction targets for construction, renovation and demolition waste in landfill set progressive milestones to measure progress and guide the process: 35 per cent by 2015; 50 per cent by 2020; 75 per cent by 2025; and 100 per cent by 2030.

While Mission 2030 is a “call to action” for the global building industry, it is also a pragmatic initiative based on a solid foundation of change management principles: clearly defining the direction of change; overcoming inertia; and starting the journey.

As the CRI Council’s first step to address the building industry’s wasteful trends, this industry-led initiative focuses on efficient resource utilization, in an integrated fashion across all industry disciplines from building owners to waste/resource haulers. It calls for a fundamental rethinking of how resources are viewed and handled whether they are raw, processed or at the end of their life, promoting:

  • Learner-centred education of the value of all resources;
  • Integrated design process as a project or product delivery method;
  • Life cycle thinking, for minimal measurable and verifiable impact-based decisions, through respective chains of custody; and
  • A focus on low hanging fruits of the generally accepted waste hierarchy, while planning for the future.

Stakeholders are wide-ranging and possess an exceptional body of knowledge to be tapped. This could be effectively transmitted through action task groups, collective research and the development, implementation and ongoing evaluation, measurement and verification of education and tools.

The CRI Council is, in essence, a hub for like-minded organizations to work closely on the research, development and implementation of:

  • Proven change management to overcome objections on sustainability adoption and implementation;
  • Education strategies;
  • Effective building waste reduction tools; and
  • Ways to inspire within and others in eliminating the concept of building waste.

Renée Gratton is founding president of the Construction Resource Initiatives Council, an architectural specialty product consultant and a member of the CSA Group’s sustainable building committee.

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