Most existing buildings were not designed for adaptation, dis-assembly, or high value reuse. Whilst renovation and refurbishment is usually preferable from an overall materials or energy perspective, there is a huge legacy of buildings where this may be difficult or not cost effective. Where a building is judged to be at the end of its useful or service life, demolition of buildings is often considered a cost to be mimimised with speed of site clearance commercially critical. Market conditions, low productivity and lack of capabilities and skills contribute to the downcycling of materials and destruction of potential value in the majority of UK EoSL buildings.
A number of studies are exploring new techniques to recycle materials back into into new products, for example, the EU Horizon 2020 project HISER focuses on material recycling. Building products are a high percentage of construction costs and have high embodied energy. Recycling of waste from demolishing EoSL buildings is of lower value compared to recovery and reuse of materials and products from EoSL buildings. Recycling can have a worse overall energy and carbon performance than using virgin materials such as the case with recycled concrete.
The potential market for remanufactured products will be driven by many factors including rate of new build, building design and technical innovation. To better understand the future market potential REBUILD will forecast the growth in building stocks (based on predicted need and forecasts) and secondly trends in building design and construction techniques (e.g off site fabrication, modular design) and product and manufacturing innovations (e.g material choices, 3D printing) which will affect product choices and decisions, and inform future workshops.