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Lighter, Less and Lean: Reducing Waste

(originally Published 30 June 2016)

The construction sector’s waste footprint can be dramatically improved through a waste hierarchy of reduction, re-use and recycling of material.

‘Lighter, Less and Lean’, a new operating style for the construction industry, was introduced at the 2016 Green Cities conference in Sydney. Lighter, Less and Lean enables suppliers and project stakeholders to come together and create a sustainable built environment through a different lens.

The Australian construction sector has an opportunity throughout the whole supply chain to reduce its contribution to waste through a ‘waste hierarchy’. 

Delegates were told it was time to bring together the principles of the traditional waste hierarchy to reduce, reuse and recycle, with the capability and capacity of our collective supply and achieve holistic sustainability outcomes.

The construction industry is currently responsible for 40 per cent of Australia's waste and contributes at least 25 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, it generates $356 billion in revenue annually, employs more than one million people in Australia, and spends $36 billion on products. 

“The construction sector is critical in shaping the way we accommodate our increasingly urbanised population. The question is: how do we take the scope and scale of the sector, deliver economic, social and environmental value and together succeed in a finite world?” said OneSteel Customer and Market Relationship Manager Rob Johnson. 

The opportunity

A construction industry that is ‘lighter, less and lean’ means:

  • Lighter, stronger materials, innovative products and services such as prefabrication and modular construction techniques; and
  • Less waste, labour, truck movements, safety issues and time; lean supply chain that practices early engagements, working together and demonstrates confidence in our local capabilities, demonstrated through traceability.

In the past 12 months we have seen the ingredients of Lighter, Less and Lean deliver buildings quicker, safer and with greater value for money. In turn, it helps create a more sustainable built environment. Lendlease's initiatives at Barangaroo in Sydney to reduce embodied carbon in building materials is a recent example. A similar example is 20 Martin Place, where the steel supplied in the 1970s stood exposed last year. The building was rebuilt using the original steel framing and now welcomes its new tenants. 20 Martin Place, where the steel supplied in the 1970s stood exposed last year. The building was rebuilt using the original steel framing and now welcomes its new tenants. 

The same applies for new projects with Grocon’s 480 Queen Street the first steel framed building constructed in Brisbane in 40 years.

A new operation style

OneSteel acknowledges the expansiveness of the industry and that complex supply chains feed into this process: manufacturers, distributors, fabricators, schedulers and logistics. 

“In order to do reduce, reuse and recycle, we encourage the industry to look to its material suppliers for support throughout the full life cycle of a project,” Johnson said. 

More specifically, Johnson suggested it could be broken down according to the various phases of construction. 

“In the design phase, look for design optimisation support, access to subject matter experts, software and tools, and design for reuse and deconstruction guidance.”

During the supply and build phase, suggestions for industry to look at using are: 

- High-strength product that reduces material use while maintaining the structural integrity 
- Ethical and compliant supply chain 
- Socially responsible citizens with high health and safety standards and community engagement, and 
- Environmental Product Declarations that are Green Star and IS compliant.   

OneSteel suggests preparing for the ‘re-use’ phase by having confidence that what you’ve designed for your building is what’s used, and that you have an efficient and adaptable structure for the future tenant that you don’t even know about yet.

Working with suppliers is essential to ensure a project has built in ‘reuse’, preventing the need for full demolition.

OneSteel, which is engaged with more than 10 research hubs, champions a sustainable approach to steelmaking and has used nearly 2.5 million car tyres in its Polymer Injection Technology, a steelmaking process that enables the construction industry to accrue Green Star points.