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Courtesy: Vibes from Deep Inside

If you haven’t heard about Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), get ready.

Increasingly, sustainable solutions are focusing on end-of-life opportunities to reduce waste, recover material, and alleviate landfills. EPR, or product stewardship, does this through political means, by legislating requirements that urge or force manufacturers to bear the burden of recovery. The idea is to hold the makers of things accountable for the impact of things once they outlive practical use—that is, to shift the responsibility away from communities and taxpayers. Of course, manufacturers typically increase their prices to cover additional costs, so ultimately consumers carry the weight. 

Long required in many other countries, EPR suddenly has become a hot topic of debate here at home. To date, about two-thirds of the 50 states have product-specific EPR laws, and, as The Economist reported earlier this year, Maine became the first U.S. state to enact a blanket EPR rule that in theory could apply to any product type, including building materials. Already, there are many active or pending laws requiring carpet to be recycled.

What this means is that soon architects could feel more and more pressure to design buildings that can come apart easily. Typical demolition requires sorting, stripping, and shredding, which are inefficient and lead to raw matter not easily divided into discrete products and components. Design for Disassembly (DfD) plans for easier deconstruction by using alternative fastening methods and avoiding bonded materials.

DfD got the glamour treatment in KieranTimberlake’s Cellophane House at MoMA in 2008, but my favorite guide is still Brad Guy and Nicholas Ciarimboli’s DfD: Design for Disassembly in the Built Environment.



Comments (6 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 11:09 AM Friday, January 14, 2011

    Kim: How can REPAK not have regulation it the government is involved? Isn't government involvement the definition of regulation? McDonough has done a great job of packaging "sustainability" so that he stands to gain as much as possible from it, whether or not it is ultimately the best for the goal or reaching sustainability is yet to be seen, but he does have some good ideas. Landfills in themselves are not the problem with waste; it's the qualitative aspects that are the real problem, not the quantitative. If everything that goes in is either 100% biodegradable into earth/people friendly base materials (within a relatively short time frame) or inert (i.e. rubble masonry wall demo-- which makes great fill by the way). Therefore we should not allow anyone to produce nasty things period; mandating this is the best way because bottom up efforts are cost prohibitive to the consumer (i.e. the consumer will buy the cheap "dirty" one, not the "clean" green one which historically has cost more, due partially to the fad of "green" in my opinion, but mostly because laws don't adequately penalize processes that are harmful to the environment. To truly "begin at the beginning" we should be looking at the roots of our environmental problems, the materials that originally constitute products; demolition is benign if the energy used to do it is 100% renewable and the materials are 100% biodegradable and inert. If you really want to do a PhD on demolition/waste issues you should develop a process for mining existing landfills, that is, a mobile industrial process that can go from landfill to landfill extracting, sorting, incinerating, cleaning, reconstituting and redistributing former wastes; furthermore studying the "sedimentation" of our landfills could reveal how to qualify this process. Good luck with your PHD, also take a look at this, , research on "Deconstruction" by Design Coalition, Inc.. Regards.

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  • Posted by: Kim Del | Time: 12:47 AM Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    Ireland has a great idea, REPAK, a joint effort between the govt and industrial packaging designers seeks to do this without regulation--which as William McDonough says, and I know you know, regulation is a failure of design. Australia has taken a different step to have the design and construction field work voluntarily with the govt on ways to reduce construction debris--the largest single contributor by far to landfills. I am looking, in my PhD study, to use this same idea of review at the beginning of the cycle of construction debris--that of demolition permitting to do the same sort of thing at the municipal level--where the real power over land use (and construction) lies. Preservation, or "Conservation" as the rest of the world calls it, is the "new black". seriously. Waste reduction is far superior to waste reuse or recycling (downcycling) so we should begin at the beginning.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:40 AM Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    Manufacturer's are shouldering environmental responsibility onto consumers, and Consumers are effectively blamed when our environment is destroyed with marketing statements like "do your part" and "the 3 R's." Now it's hard to disagree with the three R's, but you have to ask yourself the question, "why am I being allowed to harm the environment;" consumers aren't the ones that produce nasty stuff, producers have the option not to produce nasty stuff, and there are existing alternatives out there in every sector. What we need to do is push for innovation so that the least expensive product is also the greenest; incentives can encourage growth in the proper areas until economies of scale take hold. Attempting to change how everyone thinks through education, etc. is a losing battle; making the green option the least expensive option is a wise strategy because cost is a common denominator that everyone can understand, and education will ultimately lead you to the conclusion that recycling is a stop gap. Biodegradability into harmless substances should be our #1 priority. Recycling may not make sense in the big picture, when resource extraction vs. embodied energy/externalities of the recycling process are truly understood.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 9:04 AM Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    so who is blaming consumers? comsumers often have no choice. getting the manufacturers to take the lead is the start. then educate the consumer and place financial incentives to recycle and/or repurpose. it is not that difficult, or shouldn't be. and i am getting sick and tired of the green band wagon. what happened to just being responsible? that is lot better than lip service green. adopting a way of life strategey has far more reach and impact than just achieving a check box.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 1:11 PM Friday, December 03, 2010

    ...rather than creating new industries when we have an environmental problem (e.g. the recycling industry) why don't we just fix the problem at it's source. This can be simply done by not allowing producers to harm the environment, period. Of course, as green architects we capitalize on the world's inefficiency by advocating energy retrofits, green makeovers etc., but we should first be environmentalists and not let this stuff happen in the first place by advocating for clean energy, non-toxic/non-environmentally degrading products and processes.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 12:52 PM Friday, December 03, 2010

    These sorts of strategies (espoused by McDunough, Hawken, and others) don't get to the heart of the problem, which is that people don't care to go through a rigmarole at the end of a products life, be it a plastic water bottle, a television or an automobile; people just want to get rid of it or through it away. I think it should be mandated to design everything so that it is 100% biodegradable into harmless natural elements AND 100% recyclable. This is smart because it puts the onus on the producers not on the consumers. Quit blaming consumers for environmental problems as far as I know none of us invented or promulgated the internal combustion engine or plastics which release dioxins into the environment, etc...

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About the Blogger

Lance Hosey

thumbnail image Contributing editor and author of ARCHITECT’s monthly Eco column, Lance Hosey, AIA, LEED AP, Hon. FIGP, is president and CEO of GreenBlue, a nonprofit and consultancy dedicated to environmental innovation and the creative redesign of industry. A registered architect, he is a former director at William McDonough + Partners. With Kira Gould, he is the co-author of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (2007). His forthcoming book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design, studies how form and image can enhance conservation, comfort, and community at every scale of design, from products to cities.