The Material Waste On Construction Sites Construction Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Material waste on construction sites have become a major problem in the industry. This has a vital impact on the construction process of various projects which in turn have negative impact on the environment. There are a number of reasons for material wastage on construction sites which are discussed in the report. The main reasons focussed on will be improper usage of materials and incorrect specification of material purchased which results in downtime on a project which in turn leads to possible delays in terms of project completion dates.

Although research has been done globally to try and manage this problem of material wastage in construction, there are still many companies not adhering to safe waste management standards thus bringing down the companies' standards in terms of health and safety and also the integrity of workers in that company. Surveys and interviews have been carried out to staff personnel of small to medium sized companies that are in the construction industry. Upon evaluation of my finds, there is a common problem in most of these companies which lead to material wastage that set a trend to these surveys and interviews.

By using a quantitative method approach we can derive the outcome of this continuous behaviour. We will see how the improper use of materials on site lead to major wastage. Based on the findings from the survey and interviews, the report identifies proactive solutions to help minimize this common problem and hopefully having a positive impact in the construction sector at large.

Recommendations are made to help minimize the problem although it is noticed that skills development also plays a vital role in curbing the problem. Emphasis is placed on the buying department as well for it is necessary to ensure that correct information is given at all times for the correct purchase of materials for the project. I trust that through this report, it would help companies to better their standards in terms of proper waste minimization which leads to a better working environment for all and in turn leads to a safer and environmentally friendly construction site.


Over the years the construction industry has grown into one of the leading source of income globally. From skyscrapers to stadiums, every design is unique and outstanding. Our world has come a long way through discovering easier, efficient methods of executing a project in the quickest time frame possible yet maintaining quality to the maximum.

Although the end result of a structure cannot be seen immediately, many factors are considered. On every construction site, material waste is deemed to be a cause of loss for the contracting company. Unfortunately, with the construction industry growing in size, so too does material waste go unnoticed. It is important that this problem be carefully evaluated to ensure positive output and productivity of a construction company. Material waste on construction sites at large could cause major losses in a company if not dealt with.

Background/ History

Minimization of wastes at construction sites can be identified into a key factor in the achievement of sustainability, however, the significance of construction waste sources and that of systems of waste assessment have not yet been implemented.

Successful methods for the minimization of waste can only be implemented in the duration of a project execution where the evaluation of waste is required. A key element along side any project objective is to minimize wastage at any construction site which will ultimately lead to sustainability.

Activities in construction sites bring about various implications to the environment that are well sought of. With regards to information and details of the construction industry as well as the environment are generally the main targets in the consumption of raw materials (resources) and power (energy). Furthermore, wastage generated from construction sites has reached inadmissible volumes. Also, it has been well known that the construction sector has minimal volumes of productivity in comparison to the various other industrial sectors of the country's economy, an example of which is the manufacturing sector. A volume of unsuccessful work, directed to high degrees of sub-contracting contributes highly towards the wastage at construction sites. The ultimate goal that construction sectors must achieve with regards to wastage is to eradicate minimal productivity levels as well as unacceptable wastage generated from any construction

There are three main sections where wastage at construction sites occurs namely, material, labour, and machinery waste. Material wastage has become more of a cause for concern as a large amount of resources namely, raw materials where from construction infixes are based on non-renewable resources. It is a complex situation to note the similarities of wastage at construction sites from differentiated sites because of various issues irrespective of the familiar word used in industries all around the world called waste. These issues include diverse meanings; differences in rough calculations of values, numbers, quantities etc.


For this research study, the following definition of construction materials waste was adopted:

"Any material, apart from earth materials, which needs to be transported elsewhere from

the construction site or used within the construction site itself for the purpose of land

filling, incineration, recycling, reusing or composting, other than the intended specific

purpose of the project due to material damage, excess, non-use, or non-compliance with

the specifications or being a by-product of the construction process [1] ."

Studies at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the 1970s established that waste levels were not necessarily related to the type of construction or the building company but to the site and the people engaged in the particular project [2] .

Building construction has usually done by progression consisting of inputs e.g. raw materials, processing i.e. construction, and outputs e.g. waste. This method that has been used, results in the assumption of 2 things i.e. the provision that is provided for the inputs, have unlimited supplies of resources and the absorption of the outputs ends in a bottomless pit. However, the consequence of this approach on the planet was felt towards the end of the 20th century. (global warming, ozone depletion, pollution)

Young who designed the effectiveness of resources which was termed "A new revolution" [3] , called for the stoppage in the loop of material flow. "A new revolution" [4] highlighted 2 important elements namely, it reduced the raw material that was extracted and caused the waste to be minimized through being reduced and recovering for later use.

The occurrence of wastage present in construction sites at any level are not only related to construction work only but also due to theft and vandalism. Such causes are most likely to be vital in the statistics of construction sites. It seems unclear whether these reported sums are accountable for these external aspects. Secondly comparison cannot be direct between construction sites around the world as we have to bring into consideration the different constructional methods, working techniques and procedures including normal practises. However at any given rate we cannot ignore the fact of wastage at construction sites.

Even though to certain extent wastage on construction sites are unavoidable, the price reduction in the generating of wastage at construction sites is large in amount or degree. It can also be implemented by parties involved in construction projects as efforts to reduce and minimize wastages on sites.

Literature Review

Through research and reviewing of other articles we take note that the South African Construction Industry has been underachieving in its quality and efficiency, and improvement of practice through which projects are executed, need to be implemented CSIR (2004:3). To implement quality and efficiency, improved performance delivery will require professional leadership.

The construction industry is deemed to be a wasteful sector. Over usage of natural resources, energy and over purchasing of materials end up as waste. According to Mocozoma (2002:1), "the deterioration in capital investment and activity in infrastructure delivery in the late 70's and a lack of efficiency in construction processes, have all contributed towards the recession for more than two decades. Inefficiencies in the construction practice occur in three areas: acquisition and use of equipment and machinery, labour practices and procurement and use of materials."

The management of waste on construction sites have become vital to improve the industry's performance in terms of sustainability and economic quality. To achieve this target, waste must be reduced in all stages of construction. Waste management results increase productivity in construction, saves time and cost as well as does not create a hazard to environmental sustainability.

Definition of Construction Waste

Construction waste could be simply defined as "the difference between the amount of purchased materials and that used in a project."

Construction waste can be categorized as follows:

waste from over zealous procurement.

waste resulting from incorrect measurements submitted for tailor made products and

waste as a result of unskilled labour and incorrect work practises.

waste due to incorrect/improper handling an storage facilities.

Over Zealous Procurement

The construction site needs a good, sound procurement team with proper technical backing. Failing to have this will result in immature procurement teams placing orders without verifying quantities and working to a system based on task milestones. Based on the size of a project, many procurement teams commence order placements for critical materials without proper research undertaken. A good procurement team will know what the market has to offer, be adequately informed with deliveries and have a good understanding of time frames for various items needed. It is common practice that sales personnel try to manipulate procurement teams by creating a panic on availability of certain stock which in turn results in "panic procurement" taking place. A further factor is rival suppliers making unfounded commitments to deliveries to secure orders. Lastly, bulk buying and job lot buying to secure timeous deliveries results in large volumes of unused materials. It is safe to mention from the facts shown above that the construction procurement team has a major role to play in minimising wastage in this category.

Tailor made products

Architectural and design glitches contribute to a large extent of construction waste. The lack of technical expertise relating to design, measurements and quantities leaves heaps of materials that cannot be used elsewhere. Tailor made construction items need to be addressed and released for procurement through adequate document controls of a technical nature with releases from various levels of technical management to further lessen construction wastage. It is a common trend for adjustments to be made in-situ. However, this always results in much wastage due to products losing its technical abilities by unskilled personnel making adjustments to it. A good technical team will always ensure minimal wastage to tailor made to measure items.

Unskilled labour

On most large projects, it is a common fact that "dumping" of labour occurs to make up work teams. Sadly, only after materials are cut up and destroyed does one realise that unskilled and untrained labour was used on the team. Materials allocated to unskilled labour is utilised for the wrong purposes that have an adverse impact to the success of the project as well as contributing to construction wastage. Each labour team should have adequate technical expertise to prevent wastage.

Handling and Storage

The site establishment for any new project should always include for proper handling and storage facilities. Failure to have this in place results in materials being destroyed by being exposed to the elements, contamination, theft and misuse and misallocation. Improper handling methods with improper equipment are a major contribution to construction waste. Access for storage and removals of items of large proportions must always be catered for to prevent damages which lead to wastage. It is important for all site establishments to cater for this important aspect of a project.

Research Methodology

This report is based on a quantitative research. Various interviews were conducted with construction personnel on site, contracts managers, construction managers, company owners and various other key role players to ascertain relevant information to assist in compiling this report. To allow for consistency and relevancy in acquiring information, a questionnaire was formulated and presented to various levels of construction personnel. It is anticipated that information from these questionnaires will give a clear picture relating to the facts needed in concluding this presentation. Concise evaluation based on information shall form the basis of the presentation.

Data Collection

Primary information used for this report was questionnaires given out to various personnel from different levels of designation to ensure diverse feedback. The questionnaire allowed the person to remain anonymous as it did not require their personal information therefore receiving a true opinion based on the questions asked.

Sample Questionnaire


What is your designation in your company?

Does your company experience problems with wastage of materials on site?



What do you think is the cause of this?

Do you think that material wastage on site can be curbed?



What suggestions could you make to possibly curb this problem?

Would you implement this/ these suggestion/s in your company if given the opportunity?



Data Analysis

Based on the information derived from the questionnaires, a table can be deduced to summarize findings. Upon reading the questionnaires, many similarities have been indicated therefore we can assume that different companies could be experiencing the same problems.

Analysis of Questionnaires

No. Completed and Returned

Total No.

Response Rate





The following are results obtained from the questionnaires in table form:







The table above indicates the different causes of wastage on construction sites from 12 different construction companies as well as the percentages of the above causes given by the companies as a whole.

From the table above, it is noted that the main cause of material wastage is the over ordering of material, followed by unskilled labour and lastly theft.

The main cause roots back to improper site management and not thoroughly checking design specifications as well as quantities in order to process the correct information to the buyer.

Unskilled labour plays a role in increasing material wastage however, due to unskilled labour being a cheaper option, companies do not consider that unskilled labour will increase expense costs should they not execute their tasks competently.

Theft is a concern for most companies as many sites do not employ proper security personnel. Easy access into storage containers extra material ordered for private use and not accounted for, causes a decrease in turnover.

These causes are not farfetched and solutions can be derived but implementation and constant monitoring and evaluation of these solutions are vital to ensure the decrease of material wastage on construction sites.


According to results based on findings, the three main causes of material waste on construction sites are caused by the following:

Over ordering of Material

Unskilled Labour


To curb these problems the following is recommended:

A requisition system should be put in place. Every order that is requisitioned must be verified and authorised by the Site Manager. If there are uncertainties then a re-measure should be done as well as referring to the relevant drawings for further information must be undertaken. The person making the requisition should ensure that he writes a detailed description of the item he wants to order including its quantity. Once the requisition is sent to the buyer, the buyer needs to check that he understands what has been written in the document. If the order is a specialised item that has to be manufactured, then it is necessary for the buyer to liaise with the Site Manager to verify the item's description and quantity.

Skilled labour is vital especially when handling material that is being used for the job. Ensuring that the individual is competent is important. Rather pay extra in salary than buying more material as a result of wastage. Skilled labour understands that specific tools are required for a specific task thus reducing the amount of material waste. Proper training should be implemented if needs be. Tool box talks every morning would help in raising questions from the labour force if they are unsure about anything. Incentives can help by motivating labour to minimize waste of materials on site. Handling and storage or materials must be closely monitored by management on site.

Theft can be prevented by spending extra time making sure that storage containers are properly secured before staff leave site on a daily basis. If there are materials that are not required on site that are deemed valuable, then alternate measures should be considered for storage. Keep materials on site to a minimum. Site management should be the last person to ensure that storage containers are locked and secured. Employing a proper security guard instead of using labour will help curb theft. The store-man should keep count of all material that is brought in as well as taken out of the storage container.

The above mentioned are recommendations that could help curb material waste on site however monitoring these solutions are vital.


Material waste on construction sites can be prevented if all employees work to ensure that the correct procedures are undertaken however if staff does not take responsibility it would result in major losses to companies of all sizes. Monitoring and evaluation of material waste on site is of paramount importance. Information gathered from findings through evaluation can help companies find alternate ways and means to further reduce material waste. Not only does material waste affect the company but it has impact on the environment as well. Hazardous material waste that is not disposed off correctly can cause damage to the environment. Companies should realise that cleanliness on site reflects on the companies' reputation as to how well they manage good housekeeping habits.

As the construction industry rapidly booms, so to should emphasis be placed on a cleaner, safer construction with material waste being reduced to the bare minimum.