Designer's guide to cutting waste from construction projects

Principles of designing out construction waste


Designing out waste (DoW) requires you to build the principles of using resources efficiently into the design stage of construction projects. The aim is to plan, as far as possible, to use available materials as efficiently as possible in order to minimise the amount used for construction. This helps to reduce the quantity of waste created during the construction process.

The five key principles of DoW are:

  • reuse and recovery of materials - eg use of recycled materials or materials salvaged from other sites
  • off-site construction - eg use of prefabrication to reduce the number of trades and activities on site
  • materials optimisation - eg by minimising excavation, or standardising materials or component choices
  • waste efficient procurement - eg through early consultation of contractors on how to reduce waste in the supply chain, or tighter specification of work procedures such as allowing use of off-cuts
  • deconstruction and flexibility - eg allowing for recovery of materials during building refurbishments, such as use of easily disassembled structures in buildings or civil engineering projects

Designing out waste from your construction project

DoW principles can be applied to building or civil engineering projects. This is done most effectively through a structured approach such as the WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) three-step DoW process:

  1. Identifying opportunities to reduce materials use or waste in the current design.
  2. Investigating further those opportunities which are easiest to implement or will bring the biggest benefits.
  3. Implementing the best design solutions - the client must sign these off. Addressing waste disposal issues at the design stage can help you to comply with waste regulations and increase your resource efficiency.

For more information, see applying the designing out waste principles to building projects and applying the designing out waste principles to civil engineering projects.