Fundamentals of Building Deconstruction as a Circular Economy Strategy for the Reuse of Construction Materials

The construction industry is one of the most environmentally detrimental industries in the world, impacting directly the use of raw materials, their determination of use involving the whole lifecycle, as well as all their surrounding environment. However, within the building sector, the transition from a linear to a circular economy is still at an early stage. Business models need to be reconsidered to include new and improved methods and innovative services that could lead to a net reduction in the use of resources and minimizing the waste disposed on landfills. In this context, an important role in buildings’ circularity is “deconstruction”, which is understood as a well-considered selective dismantlement of building components, in prevision of a future reuse, repurposing, or recycling. It represents a sustainable alternative to common demolition, which tends to be an arbitrary and destructive process, and although faster and cheaper, it typically creates a substantial amount of waste. The purpose of this article is to analyze the deconstruction potential of buildings and the strategies to apply in order to keep the impacts on the urban environment low. The article aims to facilitate the implementation of circular economy strategies for buildings by proposing common principles for deconstruction as a sustainable alternative to demolition and defining the key points to be applied during the design and planning process regardless of the type of construction system or material used.

Keywords: building deconstruction; building deconstructability; design for deconstruction; end-of-life material recovery; material reuse; sustainable construction; building circularity; building lifecycle

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This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable and Durable Building Materials

Authors: Gaetano Bertino, Johannes Kisser, Julia Zeilinger, Guenter Langergraber, Tatjana Fischer and Doris Österreicher
Academic Editor: Chiara Giosuè

Building decomposition (drawing by G.B.)