The consumption of non-renewable resources and the creation of wastes have been identified as among the key issues that our society must address in order not to prejudice the opportunities of future generations. Yet the way we design and construct our buildings leads to huge volumes of waste being generated as well as the use of large amounts of materials, the extraction of which leads to considerable environmental damage. So, how can we design buildings in a way that creates closed loop materials systems that minimize waste generation and primary resourse use?
The objective of this paper is to review work carried out at Ryerson University in Canada funded by NRCan and CISC to identify ways in which construction can set up reuse loops for steel components so that waste and the demand for primary steel are reduced. In particular, the design and construction issues related to the use of salvaged steel components will be reviewed, through a series of case studies to draw out lessons and conclusions about the implications of component reuse in construction. The case studies are of projects that reuse steel components from old buildings into new buildings. They suggest that opportunities for steel reuse are significant but the industry needs to establish appropriate structures and cyclical systems and methods to ensure that components can be easily reclaimed from old buildings for reuse. Furthermore, certain ingrained industry design processes need to be overcome for reuse of steel (and other components) to become more acceptable.