Design for deconstruction and reuse

Recovering and reusing steel


Not only is steel the solution for adapting and extending the life of existing structures, steel members themselves can be recovered and reused at the end of the life of that structure.

Modern best practice ensures that steel members are permanently identified by grade and buildings are designed with deconstruction and recovery in mind.

Preliminary work in the area has been done in the publication 'Deconstruction and reuse of construction materials' from BRE, which is available for loan to ASI members from the eLibrary.

Reuse is the second or subsequent use of a material (in its original form) after its first life with little or no reprocessing. Reuse offers even greater environmental advantage than recycling since there are no (or far fewer) environmental impacts associated with reprocessing. The ease of holing and welding onto existing steel makes steel an ideal material to reuse.
 

Optimising Deconstruction and Reuse

To facilitate greater reuse, it is important that designers not only use steel but also plan to optimise future reuse. Steps to maximise the opportunity for reusing structural steel include:

  • Use bolted connections in preference to welded joints to allow the structure to be dismantled during deconstruction
  • Use standard connection detailing including bolt sizes and the spacing of holes in consultation with the fabricator
  • Ensure easy and permanent access to connections
  • Identify the origin and properties of the component, such as by barcoding or e-tagging or stamping, and keep an inventory of products in the detail design model. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is particularly well suited to recording information of this type.

An example of reuse is the repurposing of the multi-level Greenland Centre building on the corner of Bathurst and Pitt Street, Sydney. Here the existing steel frame of the original Sydney Water office tower has been reused and will be extended upwards to create a residential tower block of 66 levels.

The Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living provides education and practical advice on all things sustainable and is itself mainly comprised of renewable and recyclable building materials, including recycled steel. Steel plays an important part in ensuring long-term durability, not just on the roof collecting the rainwater, but as gutters and downpipes that take the runoff to the steel water tank, donated by BlueScope Water.

The Centre has been designed for deconstruction, incorporating whole sheets of steel for the roofing and much of the walling to maximise the likelihood of those sheets being used again. So even when the sheets have reached the end of their use and reuse, they can be recycled into yet other steel products.

Resources


Liberty Steel: Design Note 6 Design for deconstruction