Is it realistic to deliver zero waste to the landfill from a major construction project today? Unfortunately, no. And we’re not even close to getting to zero as an industry.

More than 75 percent of construction waste is not being repurposed or recycled, and the construction industry is responsible for 30 percent of extracted natural resources and 25 percent of the worldwide solid waste, according to Science Direct. No wonder the construction and demolition waste management market is projected to grow to more than $271 billion by 2028.

The best way to reduce the pile-up of discarded construction debris may be to innovate from within each step of the design, manufacturing, and construction process: how buildings are designed, how materials are manufactured, how they are constructed, and how the materials are treated after they are no longer needed in the original design.

Sustainable deconstruction starts with thoughtful design.

Designing for deconstruction is not a new concept. The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be a 20-year building, and the Crystal Palace in London was taken down after just five months and rebuilt on another site.

However, with the push for optimizing building efficiency, the pallets of sealants and glue that help effectively seal a structure from weather are exactly the same materials that make it difficult to deconstruct a structure for reuse. Once you glue something together, it’s together and can’t be reused or repurposed separately.

“It's something we're trying to solve,” says Brent Trenga, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, and director of sustainability for Kingspan North America. “You can't disassemble something that's been glued together, like if you glue your Legos together. Then that’s the Lego set you get forever.”

Mechanical fastening and modularity allows for ease of deconstruction and opens up the possibility for reuse later.

Modular manufacturing and reducing factory waste.

When modular building products are used, there’s less waste on the jobsite. But, what’s happening inside the factory? There can be a ton of waste back within the supply chain that isn’t seen on site. Selecting manufacturers who reuse the offcuts and scraps can go a long way for decreasing the environmental impact of a building project.

“I think it's probably misunderstood how much waste can be generated just through manufacturing, even when it's optimized, even when it's the best,” says Trenga. “You have to understand how much waste was involved in getting it to that optimized form. Is there a ton of waste back in the supply chain to get it to that form?”

Construction plans can include deconstruction designs.

Designing successful circular architecture requires more than just the basics of excellent design that include delivering a remarkable solution to a complicated program, meeting the owner’s other goals of making a memorable aesthetic statement, and reducing environmental impact during the construction process. It also requires plans for a building’s afterlife.

“You really need to think through all of those logistics before the building is built so that everybody knows their role in the deconstruction process,” says Trenga. “The owner knows what they're paying for. The contractor knows what he's responsible for. The manufacturer knows what they're selling and what they're getting back after deconstruction.”

Some manufacturers, like Kingspan, are able to reuse and repurpose the materials in their products. For their mineral fiber, they grind it, compact it, and then send it back to the original manufacturer who introduces it into a new product that goes right back to Kingspan. They’ve also innovated a way to reuse the foam in their insulated metal panels. By grinding it down and capturing the grounds, they can mix it with minerals so it can be used as an additive in concrete mixes, replacing fly ash. The lightweight, higher R-value and thermal mass, and lower sound-transmissive concrete is available from BelterTech.

“We want to be good stewards and use its raw materials that we can infinitely recycle or continue to keep in their most highly effective phase,” says Trenga. And effectively reusing materials and designing for deconstruction to achieve zero waste is a process that will take a great deal of effort from everyone in the construction industry. “It's just not as easy as ‘oh, we can just recycle this’” he says. “We're beyond the idea of just throwing stuff in a recycling bin.”

For more information about how Kingspan is innovating for deconstructive design, visit