Designer's guide to cutting waste from construction projects

Applying the designing out waste principles to building projects


Architects and design teams are essential for the success of applying the designing out waste (DoW) principles to building projects. DoW principles can be incorporated into the design stages specified by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Stages A-B: appraisal and strategic brief

During the appraisal and strategic brief stages, the designers for the building project should incorporate the DoW principles of reuse and recovery of materials, and design for deconstruction and flexibility.

Reusing materials includes:

  • assessing whether any existing buildings on site could be partly or completely refurbished to meet the project's needs
  • carrying out a pre-demolition audit of buildings that are being demolished to discover whether any materials or components can be reused

Designers should also assess whether deconstruction and flexibility can be considered, or is a priority.

Stage C: outline proposal

At the outline proposal stage of a design project, designers can apply the DoW principles of reuse and recovery of materials, and off-site construction.

Options for reusing materials at this stage include:

  • discussing with other consultants whether recycled materials or components need to be tested or certificated before use
  • choosing a demolition contractor able to maximise the reuse of materials

Off-site construction building design considerations include:

  • assessing whether off-site manufactured systems can be used for the structural elements
  • checking construction site access required to bring in prefabricated components

At the outline proposal stage, you should also consider:

  • designing for materials optimisation - using simple structural approaches that minimise the amount of material used, for example concrete post tensioning instead of reinforced concrete cast in situ
  • designing for waste efficient procurement - assess implications of design chosen for how the building will be built, for example in terms of specifications and contracts
  • designing for deconstruction and flexibility - for example for major building elements such as structural frames

Stage D: detailed proposals

By the end of the detailed proposal stage, designers should have decided upon and incorporated detailed DoW solutions into the project, as part of the building's form, materials and space requirements.

Waste reduction proposals made at this stage should therefore be incorporated into the design's development, and detailed waste-reduction discussions should take place with other consultants, contractors and suppliers.

At this stage, the designer should also highlight any implications of DoW decisions on the overall project costs.

You can download Zero Waste Scotland's guide to Designing Out Construction Waste (PDF, 1.63MB).

You can download the Construction Leadership Council's Routemap for Zero Avoidable Waste in Construction (3.46MB).