Going the route of selective deconstruction

Published on 30/11/2018

On Thursday 22 November 2018, as part of the "Betriber&Emwelt" cycle, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the Luxembourg Environment Agency held a conference focused on selective deconstruction and field experiments. This concept, which poses an important challenge for professionals in the construction industry and from an environmental perspective, has gradually been gaining momentum in Luxembourg.

Selective versus conventional

Currently, two deconstruction practices coexist at building sites:

  • So-called "conventional" deconstruction, where relatively standard building demolition takes place, resulting in building materials that are largely mixed together. This leaves no other choice than to "downcycle" them, producing material lower in value than the initial material, or to be disposed of in landfill sites,
  • Selective deconstruction, which entails the dismantling of building installations and structures while preserving and sorting their component parts, favouring the reuse and quality recovery of building materials.

But it is clear that with the entry into force in 2012 of the law on waste management, setting a target of material recovery from building and demolition waste of 70% by 2020, the so-called "conventional" practice no longer fits the current need. Selective deconstruction therefore becomes the natural alternative to turn towards. It is increasingly garnering interest from professionals and is already being practised at building sites. However, for the practice to have a wholly positive impact and gain ground, industry players need to strengthen their position and specialise in the area.

Significant benefits

Initiatives carried out in Luxembourg, in particular by demolition/deconstruction companies and engineering consulting firms who have provided input, have revealed the advantages of a selective deconstruction process:

  • Better recovery of deconstruction waste against a backdrop of depleting natural resources,
  • Reduced hazard in terms of certain waste that requires special processing to limit its impact on workers' health and the environment,
  • Reduced cost of building works through savings realised by generating value from recyclable materials, and reducing the cost of sorted waste management.

Clearly expressed needs

The round table held during the second part of the event encouraged interaction between the audience and a panel of experts, all players in the selective deconstruction field. The surveys conducted at the conference led to the gathering of participant perspectives, such as on the main factors leading to the success of a building demolition site (time and space management, planning tools such as an inventory of building material or firm's investment in workforce or technology).

Even though conference audience members appear to consider the provision of planning tools as important, everyone agrees that the management of time and space as well as company investment in labour and technology are also key to ensuring the success of deconstruction projects.

A supported process

It goes without saying that launching a process of selective deconstruction requires building professionals to adapt or even rethink their practices, and not only during the deconstruction phase, but as early on as the project design phase. Luxembourg aims to assist companies with this transformation. Initial tools have also been introduced by LIST: an inventory template for building materials, and “Guidelines for drafting an inventory of building materials during building deconstruction".

>> For more information about these tools, (re)visit the news "Drafting an inventory of building materials in order to improve disassembly” published on 26 July 2018

>> Conference presentation resources are available at: http://www.betriber-emwelt.lu/fr/evenements/evenement-detail/la-deconstruction-selective-au-luxembourg-experience-de-terrain/

> Visit LIST's photo album on photogallery.list.lu. 

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