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Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026

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Resources, Conservation and Recycling
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ r esconr ec
A model for estimating construction waste generation index
for building project in China
Jingru Li

, Zhikun Ding, Xuming Mi, Jiayuan Wang

College of Civil Engineering, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 7 October 2012
Received in revised form17 February 2013
Accepted 20 February 2013
Waste generation per gross oor area
The amount of construction waste
Material waste rate (MWR)
a b s t r a c t
The increasing construction and demolition (C&D) waste causes both cost inefciency and environmental
pollution. Many countries have developed regulations to minimize C&D waste. Implementation of these
regulations requires an understanding of the magnitude and material composition of waste stream. Con-
struction waste generation index is a useful tool for estimating the amount of construction waste and
can be used as a benchmark to enhance the sustainable performance of construction industry. This paper
presents a model for quantifying waste generation per gross oor area (WGA) based on mass balance
principle for building construction in China. WGAs for major types of material are estimated using pur-
chased amount of major materials and their material waste rate (MWR). The WGA for minor quantities
of materials is estimated together as a percentage of total construction waste. The model is applied to
a newly constructed residential building in Shenzhen city of South China. The WGA of this project is
40.7 kg/m
, and concrete waste is the largest contributor to the index. Comparisons with transportation
records in site, empirical index in China and data in other economies reveal that the proposed model is
valid and practical. The proposed model can be used to setup a benchmark WGA for Chinese construction
industry by carrying out large-scale investigations in the future.
2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Constructionanddemolition(C&D) wastehas becomeanimpor-
tant issue not only from the perspective of cost efciency but
also due to its adverse effect on the environment. In an attempt
to protect the environment and to improve sustainability of the
construction industry, many countries and regions have devel-
oped various regulations and initiatives to minimize C&D waste.
In the United Kingdom, the Code for Sustainable Homes makes on-
site waste minimization, sorting and recycling obligatory (United
Kingdom Government Department for communities and Local
Government, 2006). Several regulations have existed to control
C&D waste in Hong Kong (Tam and Tam, 2008a). As an exam-
ple, waste management plan is compulsory for all construction
projects in Hong Kong since 2003 (Tam, 2008b). The Brazilian Envi-
ronmental Protection Agency published Resolution 307 in 2002,
whichrequires all local authorities to prepare and execute plans for
the sustainable management of C&Dwaste (Brazilian Government-
Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). In mainland China, the
Administration of Urban Construction Garbage was promulgated
in 2005 to promote a series of local regulations on C&D waste

Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 755 26732840; fax: +86 755 26732850.
E-mail address: (J. Li).
management (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development
of the Peoples Republic of China, 2005).
However, implementation of these provisions requires an
understanding of the magnitude and material composition of the
waste stream(Cochranand Townsend, 2010). Aconstructionwaste
management plan, for example, requires contractors to estimate
the quantity of total construction waste and its main components
at the planning phase, whichwill facilitate waste reduction, reusing
and recycling during the construction process.
A number of researchers were aware of this situation and con-
centrated on quantication of C&D waste in various countries
(Llatas, 2011). These studies can be divided into two categories:
studies that determine an overall C&D waste generation amount
in a region (e.g. Bergsdal et al., 2007; Cochran et al., 2007;
Franklin Associates, 1998; Kofoworola and Gheewala, 2009; Yost
and Halstead, 1996) and those that measure C&Dwaste generation
index at project sites (e.g. Bossink and Brouwers, 1996; Formoso
et al., 2002; Poon et al., 2004a; Skoyles, 1976). In the second
category, most of researchers discussed the construction waste
generation index as estimation of this index is more difcult than
demolition waste generation index.
The constructionwaste generationindexis identiedas a mean-
ingful tool to promote construction waste management. It can be
applied to predict the amount of construction waste generated in a
project, which will assist project stakeholders to prepare appro-
priate waste management plans. Comparing the index between
0921-3449/$ see front matter 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
J. Li et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026 21
different projects canhelpproject stakeholders togainmoreinsight
about their construction waste management performance and to
review the effectiveness of construction waste management prac-
tices. Moreover, the amount of construction waste generated in a
region or a country can also be estimated by employing the index
and construction area (Cochran et al., 2007).
However, the consideration on construction waste manage-
ment is fairly negligible in mainland China. Low awareness of
sustainable construction accounts for the deciency of data about
the amount of construction waste either at a macroscopic level
or a microscopic level. A widely cited construction waste gener-
ation index, 5060kg/m
, was provided by Lu (1999) based on
empirical estimationwithout detailedinterpretation. However, the
waste generation index will vary in a wide range with construc-
tion technology, structure type, building occupancy, and especially
management level (Li et al., 2010). The above empirical index
reveals limited information for project stakeholders for under-
standingthe magnitude andcompositionof constructionwaste and
preparing an appropriate construction waste management plan. In
particular, the culture and common practices of the construction
industry in China may not be entirely similar to other economies.
Thus, an approach to the measurement of a construction waste
generation index for the Chinese construction industry should be
Given the situation, the objective of this research is to present a
practical and simple model for measuring the construction waste
generation index for building projects in China. The study is struc-
tured in four parts. The rst part includes a literature reviewon the
quantication of construction waste. The second section describes
the approach to measuring the waste generation index for building
construction. Then, the method is illustrated using a newly con-
structed residential building project in Shenzhen, China. Finally, all
the ndings are discussed in detail and conclusions are drawn.
2. Reviews
2.1. Main construction waste generation indexes
Amounts of construction waste generation have received sig-
nicant attention because this information is a prerequisite to
developing appropriate solutions for managing waste. A variety
of researchers have developed different methodologies to quan-
tify construction waste. As mentioned above, these studies can
be divided into two categories: studies that determine an overall
waste generation amount in a region and those that measure the
waste generation index at a project site.
Of the second category, some studies investigated material
waste rates (MWR), which are the percentages of waste material to
purchased material or required by the design, to indicate the waste
generation level of construction projects. For an example, Skoyles
(1976) measured the MWR of major materials in UK and found the
percentages of waste materials ranged from 2 to 15%, on average
double the losses generally assumed. Enshassi (1996) found from
a study in the Gaza strip that the materials loss was approximately
3.611%. Formoso et al. (2002) indicated that the waste rate of
materials in the Brazilian building industry was fairly high and var-
ied widely across different projects. Bossink and Brouwers (1996)
revealed that approximately 110% of the purchased construction
materials (by weight) was left as waste. In Hong Kong, Poon et al.
(2004b) identied the material waste levels of various trades for
public housing and private residential buildings. Tamet al. (2007)
investigated waste levels of ve major types of construction mate-
rial in terms of subcontracting arrangements and project types.
Other studies derived a waste generation index using the vol-
ume or quantity of waste generated per gross oor area (WGA).
Poon et al. (2004a) calculated the WGAs for two public housing
construction sites as 0.14m
and 0.21m
. In China, Lu et al.
(2011) performed a total of ve measurement exercises to inves-
tigate the WGAs of four typical trades. Llatas (2011) developed a
model to estimate WGA and applied to a dwelling project in Spain.
AWGA of 0.1388m
was obtainedfromthe case study. Another
study in Spain derived a WGA as 0.1075m
from a newly
constructed residential building that generated waste of approx-
imately 172.2m
on a total of 1600m
oor area (Sols-Guzmn
et al., 2009).
2.2. Measurement method of these construction waste generation
In addition to different units of measure, the above studies also
adoptedvariedapproaches tomeasuringconstructionwastegener-
ation indexes. They reached their objectives using three different
approaches: (1) eld monitoring; (2) interviews and (3) material
The rst approach collects data by conducting eld monitoring
because direct records of constructionwaste amounts are generally
unavailable at sites. Skoyles (1976) and Enshassi (1996) measured
the MWR by comparing contractors records of delivery with mea-
surements of nished work. Formoso et al. (2002) investigated the
occurrence of material waste inBrazil by direct observationof sites.
Bossink and Brouwers (1996) sorted and weighed all construction
waste materials at ve housing constructionsites. This methodwas
also adopted by Lu et al. (2011). Poon et al. (2004a) conducted
regular site observations at construction sites and collected data
by visual inspection, tape measurements and truck load records.
The quantities of waste were calculated by multiplying the truck
volume and the total number of trucks used for waste disposal.
Apart fromthis type of hard method for measuring waste, soft
methods, such as questionnaire surveys and interviews, have also
been adopted (Lu et al., 2011). For example, Poon et al. (2004b)
identied the waste levels of various trades based on site observa-
tions and interviews with professionals. Tamet al. (2007) collected
the waste levels of ve major types of construction material from
interviews with project managers.
Another approach quanties the construction waste generation
index based on the material balance principle. This approach con-
siders the fact that after the building materials are delivered to
the site, part of the materials are incorporated into the building
structure during construction, and the remainder is discarded as
wreckage waste or package waste on site (Cochran and Townsend,
2010). Sols-Guzmn et al. (2009) identied three categories of
waste in the construction process: demolished, wreckage and
package waste. They quantied these three types of waste by mul-
tiplying the quantities of material used in structural elements with
the corresponding transformation coefcients. The material used
in each structural elements is obtained fromthe budget document.
These coefcients were estimated from the Andalusian Construc-
tion Costs Database and the guidelines of an expert team. Llatas
(2011) further applied the approach to quantify the amount of
waste expectedineachbuilding element according tothe European
Waste List.
To quantify construction waste by carrying out eld observa-
tion, on-site sorting, weighing and monitoring related documents
is a relatively accurate method but requires a great deal of time
and human resources. This approach requires eld monitoring to
continue until the end of construction activity in order to obtain
the total quantity of waste generated on the site. This require-
ment is one key reason that only a few sample construction sites
were investigated in previous researches (Bossink and Brouwers,
1996; Poon et al., 2004a). Furthermore, our previous experimental
research also found that on-site sorting and weighing occupy too
22 J. Li et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026
much space and manpower and thus would encounter difculties
for bulky waste streams on large construction sites (Lu et al., 2011).
Measuringwasteas thedifferencebetweentheamount of materials
effectively purchased and the actual quantities used in building is
adopted by Skoyles (1976) and Enshassi (1996). However, Skoyles
(1976) also pointed out that bills of quantities in tendering doc-
uments only provided basic measurements of a project and the
measurement had to be repeated between 15 and 20 times during
the building process. The repeated measurements greatly increase
the difculty in monitoring waste by comparing contractors deliv-
ery records with measurements of nished work.
By contrast, quantifying the construction waste based on the
material balance principle is a more practical substitute for large
construction sites. In particular, this method can estimate the gen-
eration index for each waste component, in addition to total waste,
which facilitates stakeholders to develop their waste reuse or
recycling plans. However, the process of gaining reasonable trans-
formation coefcients such as those in Sols-Guzmns study is a
critical problem. In the next section, the details of our approach
will be presented.
3. Methodology
This sectionpresents a newmodel toquantifyingWGA for build-
ing construction based on the mass balance principle. The model
costs less time and manpower to collect data than many exist-
ing methods, which makes it suitable to be used in conducting
large scale statistical investigations. The application of the model
includes ve phases:
(1) Listing the major types of construction material;
(2) Investigating the purchased amount of these major materials;
(3) Investigating the actual MWR of each type of material listed in
phase 1;
(4) Estimation of the percentage of the remaining wastes;
(5) Calculating the total WGA and the WGA for each type of mate-
The rst thing to notice is that this study will measure the WGA
by weight, although the majority of the aforementioned studies
calculated WGA by volume (Llatas, 2011; Poon et al., 2004a; Sols-
Guzmn et al., 2009). Poon et al. (2004a) collected data by visual
inspection, which is more convenient to calculate the quantities
of waste by volume. Llatas (2011) stated that volume is a valuable
datum that facilitates estimation of the size and numbers of con-
tainers. However, the density of the mixed waste may vary broadly
withvarious compositions, whichwill causedifcultyincomparing
the waste generation levels between different projects. Moreover,
the landll fee in China is applied by weight using weight machines
at landlls. Thus, WGA by weight is considered in this study.
3.1. Listing the major types of construction material
Although buildings across the world is varied in building
structure and construction techniques, typical construction waste
components include concrete, brick and block, steel reinforcement,
timber, cement and mortar, ceramic tile, plastic and cardboard
packaging materials, etc. (Bossink and Brouwers, 1996; Formoso
et al., 2002; Poon et al., 2004b; Tam et al., 2012). However, the
proportions of these components may vary within a large range in
different countries and regions.
InChina, multilayer or high-risebuildings comprisethemajority
of newly constructedbuildings due tothe highpopulationdensities
of cities. The reinforced concrete structure is most popular in these
buildings. Thus, waste material is mainly sourced from concrete
Table 1
The major materials using in building construction projects.
No. Material Note
1 Concrete The major material of concrete work
2 Steel bar The major material of concrete work
3 Brick and block The major material of masonry work
4 Timber formwork The major material of concrete work
5 Mortar The major material of wet trades of nishing work
6 Tile The major material of wet trades of nishing work
work, masonry work, timber formwork, and the wet trades of n-
ishingwork, suchas screeding, plasteringandtilelaying(Poonet al.,
2004b). Other small amounts of waste come from water and wire
pipes, packaging material and other small goods. It is obvious that
the major types of construction materials, such as concrete, timber
formwork and steel bar, are the major source of construction waste
(Li et al., 2010).
For the popular reinforced concrete framework buildings in
China, the major materials consist of concrete, steel bar, brick and
block, timber formwork, mortar and tile, as listed in Table 1.
3.2. Investigating purchased amounts of major materials
Theamount of material purchasedcanbecollectedfromthepur-
chasing records of nished projects or fromthe budget documents
of ongoing projects. The amount in the budget document gener-
ally includes normal material loss during construction and thus is
close to the actual purchased amount. Because most types of mate-
rial are purchased batch by batch in China, a situation in which
the purchased material will signicantly exceed the demand will
rarely occur. Even if this situation occurs, the extra amount can be
returned to the supplier. Thus, this situation is not considered in
this study.
3.3. Investigating actual MWR
MWR is measured by dividing the amount of waste by either
the amount of purchased material (Bossink and Brouwers, 1996;
Enshassi, 1996; Poon et al., 2004a; Skoyles, 1976; Tamet al., 2007)
or the amount of material required by the design (Formoso et al.,
2002). The two possible rates will differ to a very small extent
unless the rate is quite huge, for example, 73.7%for cement inBrazil
(Formoso et al., 2002). To facilitate the intuitive understanding and
estimation of project stakeholders, MWR is evaluated as the ratio
of waste material to purchased material expressed as a percentage
in this study.
As mentioned in Section 2.2, two different methods have been
adopted to measure MWR: hard methods, such as eld monitor-
ing (Bossink and Brouwers, 1996; Enshassi, 1996; Formoso et al.,
2002; Poon et al., 2004a; Skoyles, 1976), and soft methods, such
as interviews (Poon et al., 2004b; Tam et al., 2007). In this study,
the MWR on each site is obtained from the project managers
estimation. In China, the project manager is the core person of
a construction project, who is fully responsible for project cost,
schedule and quality. Thus, project managers estimation is gen-
erally believable. In addition, there are other benets to obtain an
estimation of the MWR fromthe project manager.
(1) It can minimize time and cost involvement of investigation. As
discussed above, eld monitoring takes a great deal of time and
humanresources andthereforeencounters difculties for bulky
waste streams on large construction sites, such as multilayer or
high-risebuildings inChina. Incontrast, interviews withproject
managers and related managers have been veried as a valid
J. Li et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026 23
alternative approach (Poon et al., 2004b; Tamet al., 2007), and
can be used to collect data during a short time period.
(2) Actual MWR instead of normal MWR is obtained. Although the
normal MWR can be acquired fromthe Construction Norm(Lu
et al., 2011), our previous study revealed that MWRs in actual
construction practice signicantly differ with that in the Con-
structionNorm(Li et al., 2010). Thus, usage of the actual MWR is
moreaccuratefor estimatingtheconstructionwastegeneration
3.4. Estimation of the percentage of remaining wastes
In addition to the waste generated from the major materi-
als listed in rst phase, there are also numerous types of small
quantities of waste, such as cardboard packaging, plastic pile, iron
wire, and so on. These remaining wastes include numerous cate-
gories, but comprise only a small part of the total waste by weight.
Among them, a small part of valuable waste, such as cardboard
packaging, may be voluntarily collected by site workers and resold
to secondhand buyers. Other remaining wastes may generally be
mixed together and are difcult to reuse or recycle on-site. Thus,
estimation of the remaining wastes by category is time- and cost-
consuming and unworthy.
In this study, these remaining wastes are estimated together by
the project manager. It is assumed to be a certain percentage of the
total waste. Our previous study revealed that the waste generated
frommajor materials accounts for nearly 90% of the total construc-
tion waste (Li et al., 2010). Bossink and Brouwers (1996) echo the
estimationthat the majority of constructionwaste, excluding pack-
ing waste and small fractions waste, weighs nearly 90% of the total
amount of constructionwaste inthe Netherlands. It canbe deduced
that inthis situationthese remaining wastes occupy approximately
10% of the total waste.
3.5. Calculation of WGA
In the rst step, the total construction waste generated on site
is calculated using Eq. (1):
WG =

whereWG refers tothetotal constructionwastegeneratedfromthe
project by weight (kg), M
means the purchased amount of major
material i in the identied list by weight (kg); r
is the MWR of
major material i; W
is the remaining waste; n is the number of
major material types.
In the second step, the total WGA is calculated using Eq. (2):
where GFA means the gross oor area of the building project (m
For the third step, the WGA for major material i is calculated
using Eq. (3):
4. Case study
The method presented in the above section is applied to a newly
constructed building project in Shenzhen, a metropolis in South
China. The project is a residential building with reinforced concrete
framework. The detailed characteristics are illustrated in Table 2.
To collect related data, our research team visited the con-
struction site twice during March 2009. On the rst visit, a short
interviewwas carried out with the project manager and site man-
agers. The objective of the interviewwas to introduce our research
and to explain the data we needed. We explained the implica-
tions of these data and then discussed the availability of these data
with the managers. One week later, our research team returned
with a questionnaire and collected all the required data from the
project manager. The project manager rst conrmed that the
major materials on this project included the six types of mate-
rials as listed in Table 1. He provided the purchased amount of
these major materials fromprocurement records andestimatedthe
MWR for each major material. He also agreed that the remaining
wastes accounted for approximately 10% of the total waste. Table 2
presents the data collected.
It should be noted that the amounts of purchased material
(shown in the third column) are measured in different units; for
example, concrete is measured in cubic meters (m
) and form-
work in square meters (m
). These measurements are original data
drawn fromprocurement records. To calculate the mass of WG, the
amount is uniformly transformed into tons using the density and
thickness of each material, if necessary.
Our research team calculated the total WGA and the WGA for
each major material (illustrated in Table 2) and then discussed the
results with the project manager. The project manager veried that
the method is easy to understand and implete in site.
It can be noted from Table 2 that the total WGA is 40.7kg/m
Concrete is a major contributor to total WGA, accounting for 43.5%
of the total WGA. The second major generator is timber formwork,
at 7.6kg/m
, followed by steel, brick and block and mortar. WGA
for tile is least at only 0.5kg/m
5. Discussion
5.1. WMR and WGA for each major material
Concreting is a major building construction process. Shenzhen
requires the use of ready-mixed concrete in the entire construction
projects. Concrete waste is mainly sourced from excessive order-
ing, overlling the formwork, broken formwork and redoing due
to poor quality. It is estimated that the WMR of concrete on this
site is only 1%, far lower than the 3% in Netherlands (Bossink and
Brouwers, 1996) and 35% in Hong Kong (Poon et al., 2004b). How-
ever, the amount of purchased concrete accounts for 85% of the
total amount of purchased material by weight. Due to this, con-
crete waste generated per gross oor area occupies nearly half of
the total WGA.
Due to inexpensive, lightweight and easy to cut, timber form-
work is widely used in construction projects in China. Timber
formwork is a type of revolving material, which will not be incor-
porated into the building during the construction process. It will
be discarded as waste, generally after being revolved ve to ten
times. Thus, its waste material amount is quite large. In addition,
the WGA for timber formwork is in direct relation to the number of
reuses times. If the timber formwork revolves only ve times due
to low durability, then it will generate twice the amount of waste
as it revolved ten times. In this project, the timber formwork was
revolved an average of seven times. However, approximately 20%
of the timber formwork revolved only 34 times and was reused in
other projects after nishing concrete work. The MWR is estimated
as 80%.
Steel reinforcement bars are one of the principle materials in
building construction. Steel bar waste is mainly generated from
on-site cutting. A small amount results fromabortive work. In this
project, the MWR of steel bar was 3.0%, slightly lower than the
35% in Hong Kong (Poon et al., 2004b). The project manager also
asserted that the MWR was at a relatively low level in China. The
24 J. Li et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026
Table 2
WGA for a residential building in Shenzhen.
General information Building occupancy: residential building
Structure form: reinforced concrete framework
Underground/aboveground oors: 2/32
Gross oor area (GFA): 76117.7m
Commencement date/investigation date: May 2007/March 2009
Project progress Foundation: nished Building structure: nished
Masonry: nished Plastering: nished
Tiling: ongoing
Material MWR (%) Amount purchased Amount purchased (t) WG (t) WGA (kg/m
Concrete 1.0 56,011m
134426.4 1344.2 17.7 43.5%
Steel bar 3.0 10,204t 10204.0 306.1 4.0 9.8%
Brick and block 5.0 6511m
5208.8 260.4 3.4 8.4%
Timber formwork 80.0 60,020m
720.2 576.1 7.6 18.7%
Mortar 4.0 6500t 6500.0 260.0 3.4 8.4%
Tile 4.0 45,568m
1002.5 40.1 0.5 1.2%
2786.9 36.6 90.0%
309.7 4.1 10.0%
Total WGA 3096.5 40.7 100.0%
low MWR of steel bar leads to a low WGA, although its purchased
amount is the second largest. Its WGA is 4.0kg/m
, only half of the
WGA for timber formwork.
Brickandblockaremainlyusedinmasonrywork. Acombination
of causes can lead to the waste of brick and block. Most loss hap-
pens during delivery, handling, and transportation, such as damage
during loading and unloading, broken brick and block due to over-
stacking, cuttingduetolackof modular coordination, over-ordering
brick and block leftover as waste. The MWR for brick and block can
vary within a wide range depending on the skill and responsibil-
ity of the workers. On the investigated site, the MWR is 5.0%, far
higher than 2.0% fromthe Shenzhen Construction Norm. Although
the site managers required the subcontractor workers to save as
much material as possible, the workers still paid little attention to
their performance. The lowprice of the material andlowawareness
about the environmental management are two critical reasons for
this apathy.
Controlling the use of mortar on site is relatively difcult
because this material is used in several processes, for example,
masonry work, plastering and oor rendering. In situ production
of mortar commonly exceeds the demand because it is difcult to
accurately estimate the amount needed by each work team. The
surplus mortar will become waste. Waste is also generated when
mortar overows the wheelbarrowduring transportation. Dropped
mortar during masonry and plastering will also be wasted if not
reclaimed in time. In this site, the MWR of mortar was 4.0% at aver-
age, similar to that in Hong Kong (Poon et al., 2004b) and the UK
(Skoyles, 1976). Fortunately, the constructionindustry inShenzhen
has begunusing ready-to-use mortar as required since 2011, which
will help to reduce mortar waste.
In China, residential buildings are commonly sold without ne
indoor nishing. Tile is applied only in public spaces, such as cor-
ridors and stairways. Tile waste is mainly sourced from cutting to
t the building modular. The MWR in this project was estimated
at 4.0%, lower than the 68% in Hong Kong (Poon et al., 2004b).
According to the managers, many irregular spaces and a variety of
paving patterns caused the high waste level, though the WGA for
tile was considerably smaller.
Of the six major materials, concrete, brick and block, mortar and
tile are inert materials, which are suitable for producing recycled
construction materials, such as recycled brick, recycled aggregate,
recycled concrete, and so on. Their generation accumulates up to
60% of the total waste in this project. However, this type of waste
is commonly deposited in public landlls in China. On one hand,
the original material is dissipating, coupled with the extensive
Table 3
Actual amount of waste material fromrecords.
Material Amount
recorded (t)
Steel bar 390t 390 5.1
Timber formwork 42,000m
504 6.6
Mixed waste 260m
390 5.1
development and redevelopment of the city. On the other hand,
there is not yet enough capacity to recycle such a large quantity of
inert construction waste. More effort has to be devoted to ll this
gap in China.
Wasted steel bar and large panel timber formwork will be col-
lected and resold to secondhand buyers or recycling companies.
Waste steel bar generally costs half of the original material. Because
of its high value, more than 90% of waste steel bar is elaborately
5.2. Comparison with transportation records in the project
The selected building project was at a nishing stage during
the investigation. Masonry and plastering work had been nished,
and 90% of the tiling work had been completed. As the majority of
the construction work was nished, our research team reviewed
the resale and transportation records to nd the actual amounts of
waste material and the data are illustrated in Table 3. To measure
by weight, the amount is uniformly transformed into tons using the
density and thickness of each material, if necessary. The density of
mixed waste is assumed to be 1.5ton/m
The recorded amount of steel is 390 ton and it is higher than
the 306 ton estimated by our method. This deviation derives from
the slight underestimation of the MWR by the project manager.
The actual MWR deduced fromthe records is up to 3.8%. However,
the difference between the two WGAs is only 1.1kg/m
, which
accounts for 23% of the total WGA. This deviation has a limited
effect onthe total WGA. As mentionedabove, it is difcult to ndan
extremely accurate waste rate unless the entire work is monitored
up to the end and all related documents are collected. Estimation
of MWR by project manager is not very precise but is a practical
The amount of timber formwork in the record is approximately
504 ton, lower than our estimate of 576 ton. Two reasons may
cause this difference. First, our estimation includes all timber form-
work waste, such as deteriorated large panels and cutting margins.
J. Li et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026 25
Table 4
Calculation of normal WGA.
Material Normal
The amount
purchased (t)
WG (t) WGA
Concrete 1.5 134426.4 2016.4 26.5
Steel bar 4.5 10204.0 459.2 6.0
Brick and block 2.0 5208.8 104.2 1.4
Timber formwork 100 720.2 720.2 9.5
Mortar 2.0 6500.0 130 1.7
Tile 2.0 1002.5 20.0 0.3
Total WGA 50.4
Data source: Shenzhen Construction Norm.
However, only large panels of timber formwork are sold and
recorded. The off-cut scrap is commonly collected and transported
together with other mixed waste without records. In addition, the
amount of resold timber formwork is derived from approximate
statistics, as this material is usually sold in bulk.
The mixed waste in this project includes waste concrete, broken
brick and block, off-cut tile, waste mortar, timber scrap, packag-
ing waste and plastics. The recorded amount is far lower than
the estimated amount. The total estimated amount of concrete,
brick and block, mortar and tile is close to 2000 ton. After discus-
sion with the project manager and site visits, the possible reasons
for this discrepancy are summarized. First, waste concrete from
excessive ordering is usually poured out around the construction
site. Other concrete fromoverlling or broken formwork is cleared
as backll material, although this practice is prohibited by Con-
struction Specications in China. Similarly, surplus mortar and
dropped waste mortar are also collected as backll. A small quan-
tity of broken brick and block is used to backll the foundation.
The majority of these types of waste are illicitly reclaimed on site.
This situation demonstrates that the estimation of construction
waste by reviewing related records is not a feasible approach in
5.3. Comparison with empirical data in China
As mentioned above, a popular empirical WGA in China is
, given by Lu (1999). The WGA in this case is lower
than the empirical data. Although Lu (1999) did not mention the
measurement method of the empirical data, it is found that the
data is close to the normal WGA. It can be seen from Table 4 that
thenormal WGA is 50.4kg/m
, whichis calculatedusingthenormal
MWRs fromthe Shenzhen Construction Norm.
Compared with Table 2, it is obvious that the normal MWRs for
concrete and steel are higher than the actual MWRs of the surveyed
site. Amainreasonis that these twotypes of materials are relatively
expensive and also account for a large part of purchased material.
Thus, enormous attention is paid to reducing waste from delivery
and handling. The WGA for concrete in Table 2 is only 17.7kg/m
less than that in Table 4. Similarly, WGA for steel bar in
Table 2 decreases by 2.0kg/m
. Moreover, as 20% of timber form-
work is reused in other projects, the WGA for timber formwork
in this case also decreases by 1.9kg/m
from normal estimation.
Although the actual MWRs for brick and block, mortar and tile
are higher than the normal MWR, the increase in WGA is fairly
small. As a whole, the actual WGA is 20% lower than the normal
5.4. Comparison with research data in other economies
Comparison between countries can help with benchmarking
and identifying good waste management practices (Lu et al., 2011).
However, comparing the WGA of different economies is difcult
due to the different construction technologies and work proce-
dures involved and because distinct measurement approaches
were adopted in each of them (Formoso et al., 2002). Despite
the lack of comparability between most of the WGAs in various
countries, comparison between the indexes with certain similarity
still can bring some enlightenment.
For this purpose, several WGAs in different economies are care-
fully selected by reviewing previous studies, as shown in Table 5.
All these three WGAs are obtained from concrete framework res-
idential buildings and measured with the same units. The WGAs
in America and Norway result from previous empirical survey of
waste composition and generation. Seo and Hwang (1999) calcu-
lated WGA in Korea using a similar method with our approach.
In our case, the total WGA is slightly lower than that in America
and Korea but is higher than Norway. Because the building struc-
tures and occupancies are similar, the deviation of total WGA may
be contributedtodifferent constructionpractices andmanagement
level. Table 5 further compares the WGA for each material in dif-
ferent countries and regions. Obviously, the WGAs for concrete
and brick in each economy are similar, but the WGAs for steel
and timber vary signicantly. As mentioned above, timber form-
work is more popular than metal formwork in China. The timber
waste will decrease if the former can be widely substituted by the
latter. This may be the reason that timber waste in Norway is dis-
tinctly lower than in other countries. Steel waste is mainly sourced
fromcutting steel bar on-site. If preassembled steel reinforcement
is applied, steel waste may be drastically reduced. This practice
may contribute to the remarkably low WGA for steel in America
and Norway.
In summary, comparisons with transportation records reveal
that the method presented in this study is valid and practical to
estimate the actual WGA. At the same time, comparisons between
empirical data in China and WGA in other economies indicate that
the waste generation level in China is decreasing as more atten-
tion being devoted to preventing the production of waste material.
But the WGA in China can still be improved by adopting low-waste
technologies (Poon et al., 2003) or incentive system(Tamand Tam,
Table 5
WGAs of residential buildings in other countries or regions.
Countries Total WGA (kg/m
Concrete Brick Steel Timber Mortar Tile
43.7 22.9 0.9 6.4
30.7 19.11 0.48 2.75
47.8 15.87 4.53 5.17 3.84 0.35 0.33
Data sources: Cochran et al. (2007).
Data sources: Bergsdal et al. (2007), including ofce buildings and apartment buildings.
Data sources: Seo and Hwang (1999), including concrete frame buildings, but not limited to residential buildings.
26 J. Li et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 74 (2013) 2026
6. Conclusions
This research proposes a model for quantifying WGA for build-
ing construction in China. Purchased amount and actual MWRs of
major material are used to estimate total WGA and WGA for each
major component. The WGA for other minor quantities of material
is estimated together to simplify the estimation approach. A newly
constructed residential building in Shenzhen is used as case study
to illustrate the model, and the WGA of this case is 40.7kg/m
. Of
that amount, concrete represented 43.5%, timber formwork 18.7%,
steel bar 9.8%, brick and block 8.4%, mortar 8.4% and tile 1.2%. The
data are compared with on-site transportation records, empirical
data inChina, anddata inother economies. Comparisons withthese
data reveal that the method is valid and practical for estimating the
actual WGA.
The proposed method is particularly suitable to be used for
conducting large-scale statistical investigations, as the model is
simple and related data is easy to obtain. By conducting statistical
investigation on a regional or a national scale, abundant knowl-
edge about construction waste magnitude and composition can be
obtained and used to develop appropriate waste management pol-
icy. Based on the investigation result, a benchmark WGA, which
will guide construction industry in taking more effective waste-
reduction practices, can be set up. It is the objective of our future
A limitation of the proposed method is that the reliability of
WGA mainly relies on the accuracy of WMR provided by project
manager. Requiring the project managers to explain their data in
detail may be a feasible solution to avoid signicant deviation.
Moreover, the model only provides a rough estimation of construc-
tion waste generation and composition. If accurate estimation is
required, material should be further subdivided in termof building
elements or other characteristics like Llatas research. Of course,
the requirement will increase the complexity of this model.
The authors are very grateful for the constructive comments
provided by the two anonymous reviewers. The present study is
part of the Humanities and Social Sciences researchproject entitled
Construction project stakeholders attitude and behavior toward
construction waste minimization and transformation mechanism
(11YJAZH047) funded by the Ministry of Education of the Peoples
Republic of China.
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