Harry Giles Discusses Recession-Proof Construction on The Environment Report

Harry Giles was interviewed on March 9, 2009 on The Environment Report about recession-proof construction.

To listen to the interview, check out or read the transcript

Buildings contribute about 25% of all municipal landfill. This amounts to over 31.5 million tons of waste annually in the U.S. Each year, 170,000 commercial buildings are constructed in the U.S., and 44,000 commercial buildings are demolished. This is placing a burden on our natural resources and there is increasing concern for its impact on the environment. Therefore we need to find and promote alternative ways to reuse and recycle materials and buildings before disposal. We need to develop a methodology for specifying appropriate materials used in construction, the methods of construction, and their dismantling to enable separation of materials at the end of life which can facilitate reuse, recycling, and bio-degradation. This can be achieved through design for deconstruction.

In the context of physical construction, deconstruction is the selective dismantlement of building components, specifically for re-use, recycling, and waste management. Buildings, like everything, have a life-cycle. Deconstruction focuses on giving the materials within a building a new life once the building as a whole can no longer continue. Deconstruction can be seen as a method of harvesting what is commonly considered “waste” and reclaiming it into useful building materials. Saving the shell of a building or adapting the interior space to meet new needs is the ultimate choice in terms of environmental sustainability. An upstream approach to deconstruction can be implemented into buildings during the design process.

Techniques associated with modular building that create separate functional units and components that can be put together in a variety of ways can allow for adaptive reuse, similar to what we see in the manufacturing industry. Value can also be added to new structures that are built according to designs for deconstruction since reclaiming materials for a new on-site structure can be the most economically and environmentally efficient option compared to demolition and waste tipping.