Construction-in-Reverse’ is a contemporary name to an age-old concept of reusing existing structural components to create new facilities. Along with being an alternative to the ills of demolition around the world, it is most essential for creating a sustainable environment. The ultimate goal of this approach is to responsibly manage the construction of new buildings through minimizing the consumption of new raw materials by using existing materials from demolished sites and finding ways to reuse them in another construction project. An enormous amount of waste is produced due to the demolition of building structures, which can be judicially reused through the reprocessing of ‘waste’ materials, thus reducing the input of new resources and extending the life cycles of the existing. Traditionally, the construction industry used raw material to manufacture it into the desired product, but the new approach to manufacturing is taking salvaged items, performing repairs, rectification or adaptation to what society needs. About 25 % of the demolition waste can be reused while 70% can be recycled. This ‘deconstruction’ could lead to increased diversion rate of demolition materials from landfills, thereby reducing almost 60% of the world’s waste. It could supply useful materials, increasing ease of material recycling at recycling centers, remanufacturing enterprise and building material yards. Buildings designed for potential demolition on becoming obsolete are often easier to maintain and adapt to new uses. Saving the shell of a building or adapting interior spaces to meet new needs ensures that new structures have a small environmental impact. The current trend in sustainable architecture involves the use of high-grade durable material.

Designing for Construction-in-reverse

The demolition of Fort Ord Barracks in California produced lots of valuable lumber and few finishing materials. Posing as a challenge to this objective of reuse were Hazardous materials, which in this case were asbestos and lead-based paint. The reclaimed wood was reprocessed for new construction and was reused for a new ceiling at the Cal State University Visitor Center, California.

Another example of such ‘Reuse’ includes temporary accommodation for 17,000 athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Village, Stratford, where residential units were created according to the code for sustainable homes. Some of the key approaches used in the design were interchangeable cladding panels and generally full stories in height. The kitchen, facades, bathrooms, and balconies were manufactured off-site and the partitions were movable so that space can be reconfigured.

Though construction-in-reverse is a very environment-friendly and sustainable practice, it faces several challenges over conventional demolition. The existing buildings have not been designed for dismantling or dissembling, so the tools for deconstructing existing buildings don’t exist neither is the recertification of used components possible. Most of the construction firms operate under a tight profit margin and generally, they are not willing to jeopardize their profit margin by implementing reuse programs or expanding their demolition practices to deconstruct they feel that it is simply not worth the financial risk to be environmentally friendly. The use of salvaged materials can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on the material’s durability, desirability, and longevity. The challenges can be easily overcome if there are changes in design and policy. The largest barrier to non-traditional construction and demolition techniques is that they are not cost-effective as well as the industry does not have the appropriate tools to make an educated decision about their building options.

Design for ‘construction-in-reverse’ works alongside with sustainable design and recycling. Designing for deconstruction is a difficult concept for architects as they conceptualize their buildings as being timeless and no architect intends on spending intensive labor creating a building only to be torn a few years down the lane. The main problem faced today to practice deconstruction is that architects or builders of the past designed their creations to exist forever and did not make the necessary provisions for disassembling in the future. Even today materials are not produced keeping recycling in mind. Moreover, even though architects want to design sustainable buildings that can later be reused for other purposes, the clients don’t want to opt for new building techniques as they are accustomed to and prefer traditional techniques. Architects can contribute to the environment by designing buildings that facilitate adaptation, renovation, and agglomeration of reusable components.


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