Waste produced on the construction site is the “meter of efficiency” of the work being done. Of course, if you are building a house, waste production is the last thing on your mind. But wait a minute, shouldn’t it be the first? It defines how organized, and efficient you are, and its quantity is directly associated with mis-planning, miscalculations in quantities, storage mistakes, design flaws, lack of attention to detail and insensitive approach to money and the environment. 

Well, this was not recognized a while ago, but today, the overflowing landfills and material no one knows what to do with, is taking a toll on the environment and the urban and rural infrastructure. It is a rising concern among all levels of authorities and consciences.

If you are a client reading this, this is the best criteria to judge your architect’s and contractor’s efficiency, as this saves you the time, money, and of course, is good for those overfed landfills.

If you are an architect, contractor, engineer, or a site supervisor, reading this, beware! Because the world is changing, and so are the clients. Buckle up and adapt these simple steps to ensure minimum waste on your respective sites.

1. Make it a priority | Waste production

How to reduce waste production during construction? - Sheet1
Waste production©Google Images

This is the first and the most important step, as this will define, how efficiently you achieve this. If dealing with waste remains a side task, like before, it will keep getting sidelined, and replaced by other concerns, of what is going to stay on the site. 

In order to achieve this task, it is important that all your design and execution decisions revolve around this thought, of reducing waste during construction.

2. Pre-construction

Consider renovation or removal of recyclable materials before demolition

While designing, on an existing built site, try to preserve the existing structure as it will minimize the demolition waste by a considerable percentage. If not possible then, it is only smart, to go through the existing structure, and make an official journal of the material that can be salvaged, before beginning the demolition. Windows, doors, doorknobs, handles, screws, hinges, metal grills, stones, sanitary fixtures, faucets, glass, etc., can be very effectively removed and saved for reuse or reselling and recycling. Landfills have no use for them, but some other project might!

Plan ahead

Before the project moves to the site, hold a meeting with all the stakeholders and members of the execution team, so that everyone is on the same page about the priority, and ready to take self-initiatives on their parts, to achieve the goal of waste reduction. Discuss the common areas of consideration, and set some guidelines for efficient waste management and material optimization.

Indulge enough time on design and discussions with the client, to avoid iterations on site.

One of the major reasons for extra waste being produced from construction sites is redo. There are very few cases, where redo couldn’t have been avoided. Make sure you are indulging in enough discussions, 3d modeling, and computer visualizations, with both the client and your team, before moving the project to the site. It might take a week or two extra but will save time on construction and on-site iterations.

Remember, it’s less expensive and efficient to correct a mistake on paper 1000 times, than to redo a part on-site.

go for prefabricated things where possible

How to reduce waste production during construction? - Sheet2
Waste production-Precast Staircase ©luxfurniture.net

 With a world thriving with technology, and alternatives, every task is easy. If your project is of considerable scale, try using prefabricated structures. This will not just bring a huge reduction in waste, but also save you a significant amount of time on the construction of standard structures like decks, staircases, etc.

Try to stick to the multiples of determined standard sizes, so that the leftover pieces of materials don’t add up.

Standards are developed for ease! It is very easy to ignore the aspect of sticking to standard sizes while designing on paper. Especially since the industry has a notion that customized is creative. But ask, if it is really needed, or it’s just to satisfy the ego of the designer, that they did something different?

3. During Construction | Waste production

Recycle what cannot be reused- Have a recycle bin on-site, along with a dumpster

How to reduce waste production during construction? - Sheet3
Waste production-Waste segregation and reclamation on-site ©csustainable

When preparing the site for construction, have a traditional waste segregating system installed on-site. A recycle bin, reuse (resale bin), and Of course a dumpster for hopeless waste.

  1. Arrange deliveries to match work stages, to avoid materials being stored on-site longer than necessary.
  • Storage of materials on-site, causes a lot of damage, and thus unusable waste. So, make sure todivide the work into phases,and schedule the material delivery accordingly, so that the storage can be minimized.
  • Ensure to log every material carefully, so that there is not extra ordering, due to lack of organization.

Ensure storage areas are safe, secure and weatherproof. 

Give an educated thought to the material storage, where it will be safe from damage, weathering along with theft security.

Minimize errors from poor workmanship.

It is not necessary to hire skilled workers to avoid errors. A better supervision, and communication with the workers could reduce the chances of bad workmanship and rework.

Work with your suppliers.

  • Make sure to get in touch with an efficient recycling agency, and a reseller. 
  • Also try making deals where you will be able to return extra unused material or sell the material to other sites and save it from being ended up broken and wasted.

Avoid using temporary support systems when possible since they usually are discarded as waste at the end of a project.

With the rapidly growing construction industry, the market now offers reusable scaffoldings and supports. Try using those on rent, rather than the temporary ones. So that there is no unnecessary burden of disposing of or reusing,

Out of the box -Go experimentative and try new building methods.

It’s not always possible and feasible to think of innovative building methods, with waste or to reduce waste, but seize the opportunity, even if you have a slight chance.

In an interview, Veenu Daniel, the head architect of Wallmakers, Kerala, rightly stated, earlier, mud, bamboo, and straw were the sustainable and vernacular materials because they were available around easily. Today, unfortunately, the most abundant material around us, is waste. So, it is only fair that we accept it and utilize our ever-growing technology and sciences, into deriving new methods for construction, that would use up some of the waste we produce. 

For eg. Wallmakers have experimented with various materials, and one of them is a debris wall, which is made of demolition waste. 

But make sure to carry out strength tests in the labs, before freezing on it!

How to reduce waste production during construction? - Sheet4
Waste production-Vinu Daniel and debri wall©edexlive.com

This is a topic, which not many architects, designers or engineers talk about in detail, but every site execution faces the challenge of waste disposal. Nine out of 10 times, the demolition waste is just disposed of on some other empty land, and then forgotten. This practice is not only spoiling the cityscape but also deteriorating a lot of reusable and recyclable objects. 

The world is recognizing the potential of waste in all aspects of life and business, now it’s turn for our ever-thriving industry!


  • Wrap.org.uk
  • Dumpsters.com
  • Wallmakers, Kerala

Mubaraka Surury Saifee is a passionate architect and writer with a keen ability to appreciate the humble gestures of architecture. She believes that there always exists more than single way of looking at things. She sees architecture and writing combined as a medium to reach people and produce some food for thought, to bring positive changes in the society.