Deconstruction And Reuse Of Building Materials Construction Essay

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This chapter seeks to offer a body of knowledge relating to the legislative provisions regarding sustainable design and ultimately 'Deconstruction and Reuse' of building materials. For this to be achieved it is necessary to evaluate the current legislation on a national level. This will explore the current strategies being implemented by the government and detailing their value. Section two will look at the relevant international legislation and the current European standards being set in relation to sustainability. Section three will evaluate the current marking schemes for a sustainable dwelling through BREEAM and LEED and detail the value of reusing materials and deconstructing a building from a legislative perspective. Finally concluding remarks will be offered.

6.2 National Legislation

To examine the current national legislation it is necessary to look at a number of different sources. Since deconstruction and reuse are not widely known terms, they are not referred to in a number of national sustainable strategies. The relevant legislation can be found in the following documentation:

SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) Strategic Plan 2010-2015

Part L- Conservation of Fuel and Energy - Dwellings 2008

Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000

SEAI Strategic Plan 2010-2015

The aim of this plan is to turn Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practises. The plan seeks to accelerate the employment of cost effective low carbon technologies and behaviours. Some of the aims of the plan are as follows.

Energy Efficiency First: Implementing strong energy efficient that radically reduce energy intensity and usage

Low Carbon Energy Sources: In order to move towards the long term imperative of a carbon free energy system, the development and adoption of technologies to exploit renewable energy sources must be accelerated.

Innovation and Integration: Change will be driven through integrated action, bringing the right people together to work flexibly and adapt to new challenges

A problem with this strategy is that it very vague and doesn't specify in any great detail. It mentions encouraging new innovations and sustainable business opportunities but does not suggest any ideas. There is nothing mentioned about deconstruction or reuse of materials. This again shows the lack of public knowledge about a valuable commodity that is currently being put into landfill.

We have the opportunity to be a leading player in the new 'smart economy' of the future, and SEAI has set itself the mission of making this become a reality.

Part L- Conservation of Fuel and Energy - Dwellings 2008

Part L relates mainly to air-tightness of a building, reducing dependency on fossil fuels, and reducing carbon emissions. One aim of part L of the building regulations is to reduce the use of fossil fuel energy and related CO2 emissions arising from the operation of a building, while proving that occupants can achieve adequate levels of lighting and thermal comfort. Here are the aims of the document.

Providing that the CO2 emissions associated with the energy use for space heater, water heating, ventilation and lighting of a new building are limited as is reasonably practical.

Minimising heat loss and maximising heat gain where appropriate through the fabric of the building.

Controlling as appropriate the output of space heating and hot water systems.

Minimising the heat loss through pipes, ducts and vessels used for the transport of heated air and water.

This document is more relevant to new dwellings and retrofitting. It is suggested that it is the sustainable legislation for Ireland, however considering how broad the topic is, the document is very specific to reducing CO2 emissions.

Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000

Part V of planning act deals with the compensation and distribution of social or affordable housing. A development plan objective provides that a specified percentage (twenty percent) of any land zoned for residential use in an area is to be made available for social or affordable housing. There are certain circumstances where does not apply they are as follows

the conversion of an existing building or the reconstruction of a building to create one or more dwellings, provided that at least 50% of the existing external fabric of the building is retained

the carrying out of works to an existing house

"stand alone" developments consisting of 4 houses or less

"stand alone" developments for housing on land of 0.2 hectares or less

In the case of each "stand alone" development referred to above, an exemption certificate should be sought by the developer from the planning authority under Section 97 of the Act confirming that the developments concerned are exempt from the requirements of Part V.

This is the only Irish legislation to mention the reuse of a building fabric. It is also not a sustainable document. A conclusion can then be drawn that the only incentive for clients and contractors to reuse materials comes from a financial sense (avoid social and affordable housing) and not a sustainable approach.

6.3 International Legislation

The EU Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS)

The aim of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy is to identify and develop actions that enable the EU to achieve a continuous long-term improvement of quality of life through the creation of sustainable communities which are able to use resources efficiently, able to tap the ecological and social innovation potential of the economy and to ensure prosperity, environmental protection and social cohesion. This strategy highlights key areas that need to be looked at but again it does not specify systems such as deconstruction and reuse of materials. The strategy is ambiguous and open to individual interpretation.

A review was then commissioned in 2009 (Review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy EU SDS). The review suggested that Priority actions should be more clearly specified in future reviews. That governance, including implementation, monitoring and follow-up mechanisms should be reinforced for example through clearer links to the future EU 2020 strategy and other cross-cutting strategies.


BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) are the two most widely recognised environmental assessment methodologies used globally in the construction industry today. It is difficult to compare the two because they have different strengths, weaknesses, philosophies and business models. What is applicable to one may not be relevant to the other.

BREEAM is essentially the British technique for evaluating sustainable buildings and LEED is the American technique. They both use a single rating, certification includes an umbrella of issues which might otherwise be individually dropped or missed.

LEED generally deals in percentage improvements rather than absolute values. This applies to the reuse of materials too. There are a number of additional credits to BREEAM where items such as rapidly renewable materials, local materials and reuse of internal elements are rewarded. Both systems recognise and encourage the reuse materials of the existing structures that previously occupied the house.

BREEAM in the UK

Fig 6.1 BREEAM grading

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) was conceived by BRE and was first used in 1990

Legislation and Planning: many local planning authorities require BREEAM pre-assessments and increasing accreditations

The number of buildings certified is quoted at 116,000 buildings and 714,000 buildings registered. The breakdown as to which scheme (building type and year) is not publicised

Private sector companies: many developers have set voluntary minimum BREEAM ratings for all new buildings

Public sector: a minimum BREEAM rating for all new buildings and refurbishments has been in place since 2006

Fig 6.2 BREEAM credit descriptions

It has never been possible to gain 100% in BREEAM (mainly due to the recycled facade and structure credits (not available to new build for obvious reasons) - by reusing a building it is highly unlikely that the fabric would perform as well as new build in energy terms, even if the embodied energy is less).

LEED in the USA

FIG 6.3 LEED grading

LEED is a registered trade mark and a brand name. It's part of a keen commercial mindset at U.S. Green Building Council, who have attracted over 6,500 paying members bringing in over $24 million a year.

Hallmark of LEED is that it is an open and transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by the LEED committee are publicly reviewed for approval by the 10,000 members of the organisation.

What this leads to is transparent system where as it possible to see a breakdown of the credits awarded to each building. It can then act like a league table for rare credits. For example credit ID2 (having a LEED AP) is always achieved, whereas credit MR1.3 (reuse of shell and 50% of interior) has never been achieved.

San Francisco, Portland and Austin, Texas, all require new municipal construction to earn LEED silver certification, the second of four levels.

In 2003 Los Angeles city council voted to require that all new public building meet the first level and more recently, they voted to fast track the approval process for developers willing to step up to a silver level

Fig 6.4 LEED Credit Descriptions

Unlike BREEAM, LEED is a points rather than percentage system. There are 100 base points, 6 possible Innovation in Design and 4 Regional Priority points.

LEED and BREEAM Compared

If a building has scored well under LEED, it is likely that it will score well under BREEAM. The converse relationship does not hold quite as well.

Where there are prescriptive credits in LEED, these are generally less onerous than BREEAM. The targets set in BREEAM are often linked to specific technologies or solutions whereas in LEED it is more common to state the intention and leave it up to designers discretion as how best to comply.

In general LEED is less prescriptive than BREEAM. Designers have more freedom to meet the required standards using their discretion and there is less of a tickbox mentality. This means the calculation methods used are more rigorous, and consequently there is more work to be done to prove accreditation.

LEED is strong on occupant comfort, internal pollution issues (off-gassing etc), heat island effects and is geared towards climates which use mechanical ventilation and air conditioning and where existing infrastructure promotes the use of cars. It also covers some ground not found in BREEAM where UK legislation takes over, for example environmental tobacco smoke control.


This chapter has charted the main National and European legislation which have influenced the documents governing sustainable development. It is astonishing that the only provisions for the encouragement to reuse materials and deconstruct a building are from a planning sense and not a sustainable approach. Sustainable design as previously indicated is a broad and intrinsic topic and in the current, uncertain climate an integration of this essential subject with the existing buildings of Ireland holds the key to the future of the Irish building industry and ultimately the economy.