Dismantling and recycling or reuse of building components is one of the building performance criteria outlined in BREEAM. Therefore building suppliers can help to improve the BREEAM rating of a project (and their own bottom line) simply by increasing the percentage of recycled and recyclable content in their products.
The construction sector has the potential to use much more recovered material:
- Growing demand for recycled/recovered building materials has increased their value.
- If all products were supplied with a “good practice” level of recycled content (instead of base level/common practice) this would result in a significant increase in demand.
- The key for the supplier market is to increase recycled content without compromising the technical performance of their products.
- These improvements can be applied incrementally (for decades neaco have been setting higher targets each year for the recycled content of our manufacturing output and many cases we are now supplying complete design solutions from as much as 95 per cent recycled material)
Designers and specifiers should bear in mind a number of criteria when choosing materials and building products:
- Every material has its own degree of recyclability – for example, aluminium alloy offers a natural advantage as it is up to 100 per cent recyclable.
- For more complex construction elements (e.g. balustrade) there is an advantage to using suppliers who provide pre-engineered systems, as opposed to building products partly or fully fabricated on-site, where processes are less controlled and many perfectly recyclable remnants can end up as landfill.
- Suppliers that complete all manufacturing at the factory stage can recover off-cuts and convert what could have become waste into future raw material.
- Modular systems which are assembled/connected without hot works (e.g. welding) are ideal – their low-energy construction serves the need for responsible construction practices and site impacts promoted by BREEAM.
The specification process
To achieve sustainable procurement designers and specifiers should observe the following processes:
- Select designs and products suited to their particular application and calculate the appropriate use of recycled content.
- Consult with their suppliers to verify that product options meet necessary performance requirements.
- Formally request that the supplier provides some form of certification which confirms of the recycled content of its products.
- If the design or building element is complex and requires a certain degree of engineering, assembly or fabrication, ask the supplier how much of this work is completed at the factory, prior to delivery and installation on site.
Incorporating a greater degree of recycled content is beneficial across the supply chain. To achieve this, specifiers must formally assess the supplier’s relevant credentials at the procurement stage and building suppliers must invest in product development to ensure that they score highly in these assessments.