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Cutting down on construction waste

Corporate January 07, 2019 01:00

By Somluck Srimalee
The Nation

4,339 Viewed

With up to 30 per cent of materials left unused in building projects, the sector is turning to circular construction

Circular construction is a better approach to property development at a time when the industry is wasting up to 30 per cent of the resources used in building projects, according to a property development executive and the head of a university eco-design centre. 

“We are trying to find the way to reduce our construction waste to zero as soon as possible, because we have a responsibility to society to minimise building waste in the environment,” Sansiri Plc’s president Srettha Thavisin said in a recent interview with The Nation.

He says his company will move towards being a green property firm in 2019.

The company is learning how to manage its construction process to reduce the volume of waste, and to reuse waste from its projects for other construction processes. In doing so, the company aims to move to “circular construction” under the “circular economy” trend, he says.

To reduce waste at the end of a building project, the company starts at the beginning stage by using the Building Information Modelling (BIM) system. The approach reduces construction waste and in the process helps to also reduce construction costs, says Srettha.

Sansiri is also investing up to Bt1 billion to expand its production pre-fabrication manufacturing capacity from 850,000 square metres of pre-fabricated products to 985,000 square metres by the middle of this year.

The new production capacity will increase the number of residential units from an average 2,000 yearly to 3,500. The volume of waste at the construction site will also be decreased when all materials are pre-manufactured, the company’s chief operating officer, Uthai Uthaisangsuk, adds.

The company is also collaborating with startup firm GooGreens, which has developed an app that will allow companies to sell their wastes to waste management firms serving Bangkok and surrounding suburbs.

This is the way to reduce waste from all of its residential projects, Uthai said.

“Circular construction is part of the circular economy, which is the way for property developers concerned about the environment to reduce waste and also improve the quality of life for people,” Assoc Professor Singh Intrachooto, head of Kasetsart University’s Creative Centre for Ecodesign, said in a recent interview with The Nation.

Singh, who is also the chief advisฌer to the Research & Innovation for Sustainability Centre (RISC), says that there has been an international discussion about how to create a circular economy in which changes to processes and products ensures that no waste is created.

“The circular economy concept is now already being used in some industries in Europe. The Netherlands has had success by using it in industry, but it is not in use in the property sector even though the sector has waste of up to 30 per cent of the total raw construction materials used in building,” said Singh.

“If the property sector managed its construction process with concern for the environment, and improved its approach to become a circular industry, that would help improve the country’s environment. It would also help people get a quality residence that is environmentally more friendly and better for the homeowner under the concept of well-being living,” he said.

RISC has researched how to achieve circular construction by reusing raw materials, says Singh, and also how to manage the construction process to reduce the volume of waste at the construction site.

“We’ve opened up our research for all property firms to use. This is a part of improving the construction process to be friendly to the environment,” he said.

According to a 2016 report by the Pollution Control Department of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Thailand generates 27.06 million tonnes a year of waste. Up to 30 per cent of the total are recyclable wastes and 64 per cent of organic waste can be comฌposted. Another 3 per cent is garbage that is difficult to break down, such as plastic and foam boxes, while another 3 per cent is hazardous waste such as medical packaging and batteries.

The reported also found that up to 109,500 tonnes, or about 0.5 per cent of total waste, came from construction.

Thailand spends Bt13 billion a year to manage the country’s waste, according to the department report.

“If we could manage the building process to make it circular construction, that would reduce construction waste,” Singh said.

“The construction industry could also use other waste as its raw materials for construction infrastructure, such as turning plastic waste from the sea into sidewalks,” Singh added.

“We believe that the property industry can reduce its waste and also be a part of helping the country reduce its overall waste. This is the direction that we are moving in,” Sansiri Plc president Sretha said.