“All for Reuse” Looks to Cut Embodied Carbon
At least 11% of total carbon emissions worldwide come from building construction, most of which is embodied in the materials used to complete projects. A new initiative, All For Reuse, calls upon building professionals to embrace material reuse options to help mitigate our global climate crisis.
“We’ll unlock a whole economy that can reduce carbon and waste, and put people to work,” said Andrew Ellsworth, cofounder of the All For Reuse initiative and founder of Doors Unhinged, a business reclaiming doors and other materials for zero-waste building projects. He’s been working closely with the initiative’s other cofounder, Frances Yang, S.E., who is also passionate about reusing materials and lowering carbon emissions in building projects. Together, they have taken the last nine months to address one of the biggest climate mitigation challenges in the commercial building sector.
To efficiently mitigate emissions, it is critical to understand what components of commercial building projects have the greatest carbon footprint. Commercial interiors alone account for as much as 25% of the construction and design waste stream, according to a concept paper released by All for Reuse. These materials turn into 32 million tons of landfilled waste annually.
By using recycled materials, project managers can reduce embodied emissions by as much as 50% for retrofits and 99% for new construction, the concept paper claims. Both the Living Building Challenge and LEED reward projects for reusing materials to mitigate climate change, and Project Drawdown recommends the practice as well. Yet we still lack a robust market for these materials in the commercial building sector.
Through a collaborative effort, Ellsworth and Yang are expanding the All For Reuse movement to support market development for recycled materials. To date, very little action has been taken to develop this market, leading to ongoing waste and emissions. While reuse retail centers have been a great outlet for residential projects, these venues purchase minimal commercial building material. The All For Reuse initiative calls upon commercial building stakeholders to recognize the benefits of using materials reclaimed from deconstruction and begin creating market connection among deconstruction, distribution, and commercial projects. As Ellsworth put it, “Without that demand, we can’t get anywhere.”
All For Reuse helps building professionals reap the many benefits of material reuse. This movement is built on three core goals:
- All projects will be evaluated as opportunities for reuse
- All designers and builders will understand the process for reuse
- All owners will commit to paying for reuse
Through the initiative, sector stakeholders can help move the building market toward circular economy principles that minimize waste and maximize reuse. Ellsworth and Yang emphasize that this is an important opportunity for architects to limit the carbon cost of their projects, and for many materials, it is also an opportunity to reduce financial cost. These benefits will compound as the movement grows and exhibits economies of scale. All For Reuse signatories commit to using their influence to ensure design and construction teams connect with deconstruction and reclamation partners, consider reclaimed material options, and understand how to maximize the use of recycled materials in the design phase.
Gehrung, J. (2020, August 24). “All for Reuse” Looks to Cut Embodied Carbon. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/newsbrief/all-reuse-looks-cut-embodied-carbon