I became aware when building and project managing my own house how much wastage occurred in the actual process of the building.
Each one of us understand that providing better insulated homes can provide a reduced energy bill and thus reduce our household greenhouse gases on a daily basis but how about the building process itself and the trades and suppliers involved.
Surprisingly even though I contracted local suppliers to provide things like the timber flooring I was surprised at how large the percentage of the suppliers and trades travel exceeded a one hour drive to the site. Just as interesting is where the materials come from and how there're transported around.
Using the timber flooring as an example once again, the trees that were logged came from New South Wales (couple of hours away) and then milled in a timber yard to the west of Brisbane and then trucked back to the house site over an hour and a half away.
Even though we can provide a better designed building in regards to better thermal qualities and solar orientation how do we reduce the unforeseen and hidden waste when it comes to actually building our home.
We could try and employ local people but that just doesn't always work due to contractors and subcontractors grabbing the most opportunistic job at the time.
And unless we actually produce the materials locally then all the transportation including road building and congestion continues causing this mayhem of carbon emissions. Maybe we should just build straw huts or are we all just too spoilt?
As a building designer I think that we should ask ourselves what we and goverments plan to do to solve such issues when it comes to design and planning any building whether that be a hospital or just a simple house design.
I don't think we're going to go back to "straw huts" but you might not be too far off. There are a lot of great projects being explored out there utilizing hay bale construction, composite materials utilizing sustainable materials, and products made from resources that are more renewable like bamboo, etc.
My wife and I just finished an addition on our home. Even as more traditional stick framed construction, we found there was quite a bit we could do to minimize waste. We recycled waste material and utilized engineered products as much as possible. One of the things I tried on this project was to save ALL dimensional lumber cut-off waste. We have an EPA Class II rated woodstove and so far have been able to entirely heat the house this winter so far with simply using the cut-offs.
As an architect and builder, my plan is to continue to develop strategies to continue to reduce waste on our projects. I also am saving all waste that can be used in the woodstove. I know this isn’t a practical solution for everyone but I think there’s opportunity for diverse and creative ideas across the spectrum.
Hi Rod, thanks for the reply.
Although the story was meant to be mainly about excessive travel and transport of labour and material to building sites your idea of minimising waste and reuse of what would normally be considered waste is very valid. I did keep all reasonable lengths of timber left over from our build and have put it all to good use. I could not use any framing for heating because it had all been treated for termites but perhaps in a wood stove like yours this might have been possible.
Sometimes truss companies offer timber off cuts for free to the general public but I bet they won't have a EPA Class II rated woodstove like yours but at least they are not throwing it away. Timber mills now tend to use what they use to consider waste into reconstituted timber products like wall bracing and webs in floor joists, no doubt you see this fairly regularly.
The bulk of the building waste I see always seems to be plasterboard, bricks and floor tiles and I don't know what you can do about that unless you build modular housing which is probably going to be the way of the future for project housing?
The straw bale house you mentioned has a fair few advantages including low material cost and thermal insulation however it does have several drawbacks as well;
This does limit the straw bale concept which I do appreciate its value, to large or urban type blocks.
Perhaps mud brick with a protective render or polymer coating or rammed earth walls is the way to go. Nothing new but as always would come down to money and be accommodated by both builders and the regulatory authorities as something that is acceptable for the general public.