Designing out waste: material efficiency throughout the building life cycle

Designing out waste: material efficiency throughout the building life cycle
© snowing12, #225257052, 2019, source:
Annual saving:
20000 - 100000€
Resource savings: Raw material:
Many designing out waste aspects, such as accurate material need calculations and component optimisation help to avoid over-ordering and reduce raw material use
Resource savings: Waste:
Depends on the design options chosen, but with different modern methods of construction, on-site waste reduction from 20 % up to 90 % can be achieved
Total cost savings:
Cost savings depend on the project value, but some case examples show savings of € 99 000 for a project of € 7.8 million and € 70 000 for a project of € 23 million
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
What is in it for you:
In a construction process, the design stage presents the most opportunities to reduce waste of the entire building life cycle
Descriptive information:

Designing out waste is a concept of minimising the life cycle waste of a building by considering design options for reducing waste in each stage: construction, refurbishment, and demolition or deconstruction.

According to studies, up to 33 % of waste generated during construction could be avoided by careful consideration of waste prevention measures in the design stage. The design team should consider possibilities to recover and reuse materials onsite, materials selection and dimensions of components, and construction methods as well as how they affect different waste streams created. Decisions about waste strategies and waste management plans should be made early on. Client involvement in setting the environmental performance objectives in the early design stage can encourage better results in the entire construction project.

Examples of opportunities for waste prevention include:

  • Ecolabel criteria can be used to set targets for building performance, such as recycled materials content and construction site recycling rate
  • Select off-site construction methods, such as pre-casting or volumetric construction, where the construction modules are manufactured offsite at a factory and erected on-site
  • Optimise material choices: reduce the amount of different materials used, and consider possibilities to optimise material logistics
  • Optimise form and dimensions: minimise off-cuts and use standardised components and coordinated dimensions
  • Accurate estimates of material requirements and revising them during the project help to avoid over-ordering

Communication between contractors, developers, and subcontractors is important throughout the process from pre-design to detailed design. The greatest opportunities for waste minimisation are in the pre-design stage.


Designing out waste can be beneficial for the entire construction project simply by setting the scene and drawing attention to the question of waste minimisation.

Direct effects on waste reduction depend on the design option chosen, but with modern methods of construction, on-site waste can be reduced by 90 %.

Cost savings from designing out waste result from waste disposal cost savings and from materials used, but also from more efficient construction work and time and resources allocation.

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