Design for Disassembly

Designing a concrete building for easy disassembly could enable the reuse of its component parts in other construction projects, reducing use of raw materials and lowering waste.

The aim of design for dis-assembly (DfD) is to aid deconstruction (demolition) through planning and design. It allows components and materials to be removed more easily, facilitating their subsequent reuse. For example, elements such as columns, walls, beams, and slabs can be disassembled without material loss or pollution to be reused in extending existing buildings or in the production of new ones. DfD also enables flexibility and convertibility of whole buildings.

In this way, DfD provides economic and environmental benefits to builders, occupants, and communities. It also helps to reduce the consumption of raw materials, as well as lowering waste during construction, renovation, and demolition.

Concrete has several characteristics, such as durability, mechanical and fire resistance, global availability, variety of type and form, and flexibility in design and application, that give it significant potential for disassembly and reuse. Meanwhile, connections made from (among others) stainless steel and removable fasteners, allow for the efficient disassembly of concrete elements.

The cyclical model proposed by DfD requires new ways of designing structures and buildings, as well as developing new assemblies, components, materials, construction techniques, and information and management systems. For example, the new prefabrication and digital technologies that are being, and will be, implemented to deliver Dfd, can be applied to the manufacture of concrete elements because of concrete’s fluidity, versatility in properties and range of reinforcement options.

The uncertainty regarding the quality of the materials and elements for reuse must also be addressed; however, the long lifespan of concrete compared to other building materials makes a favourable case for the use of concrete elements in DfD systems.

Designing elements in concrete for disassembly will maximise their reuse potential, as well as increase their reuse options, and therefore has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of construction through resource recycling, material reprocessing, component reuse and building relocation.

Header photo by Paul Moan on Unsplash