Opportunities to userecycled materials in building
Why specify recycled?
Each year in the UK, construction activity consumes 420 million tonnes of material. This equals the mass of seven family carsfor every man, woman and child. But many products could use larger amounts of material that are currently being dumpedin landﬁll – saving money and natural resources, and enhancing overall sustainability.In May 2004, the Government’s Sustainable Buildings Task Group recommended introducing a minimum requirement forrecovered materials in building projects. The proposal is that 10% of the materials value of a project (
per product) shouldderive from re-used, reclaimed or recycled content. Requirements could be set through Building Regulations and/or contractspeciﬁcations in public procurement.You can readily increase your use of recycled content in building projects, using “Quick Win” options that are:• Cost-competitive• Available and meet industry norms for technical performance• Environmentally sound and potentially eligible for credits in a BREEAM or EcoHomes assessment.The two main strategies are
(e.g. using aerated blocks with 50% instead of 0% recycled content),and
switching to an alternative design/speciﬁcation
. The ﬁrst option is relatively simple and low-risk, whereas changing aconstruction speciﬁcation requires careful consideration of a wider range of factors, not just recycled content.
What is the potential to increase recycled content?
Case study analysis of the “Bill of Quantities” for ﬁve construction projects gave the following levels of recycled content (as apercentage of the value of materials used in the project):Each facility either nearly met or surpassed the suggested 10% benchmark at “current practice”. But by switching to currentlyavailable versions of products with higher recycled content – termed “good practice” – the three buildings could have increasedtheir overall result by one-quarter, at no extra cost. (The same result has recently been demonstrated on Defence Estates’ barracksmodernisation programme SLAM.) In the two infrastructure projects, the potential for improvement was substantially greater.Major contributions to recycled content included blocks, boards, bulk aggregates and concrete products.
Where do you look?
WRAP has published a guide quantifying the
for improvement, structured around three levels of recycled content:standard practice, good practice and best available. Data tables are illustrated below and list details for:• Speciﬁcations for building elements, such as internal walls• Component products, such as blocks and plasterboard.
Facility “Current practice” “Good practice”
Residential detached house 12.1 14.6Commercial ofﬁce building 9.6 12.2School class room complex 12.2 14.9Road reconstruction and realignment 8.2 26.7Bridge reconstruction 18.3 32.7