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  • Mark Luck

Exploring the Potential of Recycled Building Materials


One thing all businesses are constantly looking at is how they can innovate and evolve. In the construction industry, this manifests itself as the incorporation of recycled and sustainable materials into building practices.


Being an industry renowned for having a huge impact on the environment and climate crisis, it’s imperative that more sustainable approaches are taken to construction projects, hence why we’re seeing a rise in the number of recycled materials being used in modern infrastructure.


In this guide, we’ll take a look at the potential of recycled building materials, discussing what materials can be recycled, why their use is important and how they can be used in modern buildings to shape the architecture of the future.


The Importance of Sustainability in Construction


The discourse surrounding sustainability is a prevalent and consistent one - with good reason. Currently, the construction industry is a key contributor to harmful atmospheric emissions, large volumes of waste and the depletion of natural, finite resources, all of which accelerate the rate of climate change.


As such, many in the industry are making the effort to identify ways in which construction businesses can operate with more concern for their environmental impact. By doing as such, this can help to contribute to a reduction in the industry’s (and individual businesses’) carbon footprint, as well as provide long-term financial benefits, improve public health and preserve precious resources for future generations rather than exploiting them at an alarming rate.


Not only is sustainable construction in society’s best interest from an environmental standpoint, but with the scale at which urban populations are growing, it can also meet numerous rising demands. For example, sustainable buildings can create healthier living and working environments, thus improving wellbeing and productivity levels - which in turn can contribute to a stronger local and national economy.


As you can see, the reasons why sustainable construction is important are abundant, both for the environment and society.


What Materials Can be Recycled?


Concrete


Being the most widely used construction material across the world, concrete is a material that has been used in construction for millennia. Whilst concrete is considered by many to be a sustainable building material due to its durability and energy efficiency, the problem lies within its production - specifically the production of cement, its key component.


Cement production is one of the largest contributors in the world to CO2 emissions, a harmful greenhouse gas that subsequently contributes to global warming. As well as cement, primary concrete also uses virgin aggregates, which are sourced from finite resources - the mining of which also produces many harmful emissions.


However, unknown to many, concrete can actually be recycled and reused. Firstly, there should be a focus on deconstruction rather than demolition; by carefully deconstructing existing buildings rather than demolishing them, larger pieces of concrete can be saved for reuse - reducing the need for new concrete to be constructed. Existing concrete also has greater stability than new concrete.


As for recycling existing concrete, this usually involves concrete being crushed into smaller pieces that can be repurposed for other uses, such as aggregates - which leads us on to our next material.


Aggregates


Aggregates don’t refer to a specific material, rather they refer to any hard granular material, often small in size, that is commonly used in construction for various purposes. For example, this could include fine grains, such as sand or ballast, or larger rocks, such as gravel or crushed rock.


Natural, or primary, aggregates are made using virgin materials, often mined in quarries or dredged from the ocean. They can be used for a range of construction purposes, such as added to cement mixtures to offer additional strength to concrete, to create drainage systems in landscaping or as sub-bases for other flooring materials.


Recycled aggregates, then, don’t simply refer to existing aggregates, but can refer to any construction material that has been crushed into smaller particles to be used as aggregates. Crushed concrete is a particularly common example of a recycled aggregate, although they could also include other crushed materials, or recycled ballast and sands.


Timber


Many people see timber is a sustainable material due to wood being a natural and replaceable resource. With that said, the rate at which newly planted trees grow compared to the rate at which they are felled for their wood is not sustainably balanced, hence why there are discrepancies surrounding how sustainable the use of timber truly is.


However, wood does have the advantage of being an easily recyclable material. Timber is used in many elements of construction, such as:


●      Pallets

●      Floorboards

●      Doors

●      Crates

●      Fencing

●      Panels (e.g. chipboard)


The way in which such items can be recycled can be affected by any treatment, paint or other present contaminants on the wood, however there are still many opportunities for its reuse and repurposing.


Glass


As well as being used in windows and doors, glass can also be present in other features of construction. For example, it can be recovered from fluorescent lighting, internal partitions and the structural glass that is used to make many modern buildings.

Similarly, if glass is accidentally broken or damaged during the installation process, then this can also be recycled rather than being wasted.


The great thing about recycling glass is that it can be remelted and used to form brand new items! Of course, the process is longer than this, as it must first be separated from any other materials, such as metals or plastic, then washed to remove any further contaminants or impurities and finally crushed ready for melting and moulding.


How Can Recycled Materials be Used in Buildings?


Landscaping


Construction doesn’t exclusively involve the building of physical structures, but it also incorporates landscaping for the areas surrounding such structures. When it comes to recycled materials, their use in landscaping is incredibly widespread and full of opportunities.

For example, recycled concrete can be used to create rock gardens, which are great low maintenance outdoor features that are especially good for promoting biodiversity in the local ecosystem. It could also be used to create decorative yet functional patios and pathways, offering that effortlessly rustic aesthetic that many people favour.

As for aggregates, these can be used as shingle or on flower beds to promote drainage, as well as filling in gaps between larger rocks in rock gardens.


Play Surfaces


Creating outdoor spaces for children that promote activity, coordination and socialisation is incredibly important - especially in urban areas, where many households may not have access to a garden and thus rely on these dedicated spaces to let their children play outdoors.


Using recycled wood, then, is a great way to save old construction materials from otherwise going to waste and instead repurpose them for a positive project by creating play structures. This could include creating:


●      Climbing walls

●      Frames for slides

●      Frames for swings

●      Ladders

●      Climbing apparatus

●      Balance beams

●      Fencing

●      Benches


What’s more, using a natural material like wood can better blend in with the surrounding environment, really helping children to feel connected with nature and even help to subtly teach them about the importance of sustainability.


Interior Design


Since recycled glass can be melted and remoulded into almost anything, its uses are incredibly versatile. This means it isn’t simply limited to being reused in structural elements of construction (such as being used to create fibreglass); in fact, one thing in particular it can aid in is the interior design aspect of a construction project.


For example, it can be used to create unique, aesthetically pleasing kitchen countertops, decorative aggregates for indoor plant installations (whether using real or faux plants), colourful glass tiles or even stained glass window features.


Make a Sustainable Switch: Choose Recycled Aggregates from Mark Luck Ltd


As you can see, the potential for recycling, repurposing and reusing materials in the construction industry is great. Not only that, but such potential is already beginning to be utilised, with green buildings and sustainable construction steadily on the rise.

You, too, can make a difference by choosing to make more sustainable choices in your operations. One simple way to do just that is by opting to choose recycled aggregates over primary ones, where possible. Here at Mark Luck Ltd, we offer a range of recycled aggregates and building materials to suit your needs.


Get in touch with us today to arrange your recycled aggregate delivery.

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