To reduce fit out waste we need changes in our leasing process.
When you examine the standard fit out materials with a view to how they could be salvaged, reused, or recycled you understand that before we even get to that point, the preferred answer would be to reduce the turnover in fit outs in the first place or/and to use material that have been design to be adaptable to changes .
The waste problem is a manifestation of the extent to which office fit out churn takes
place. The relatively small amount of research in the area of fit out churn includes a recent Australian study by Forsythe (2017) who uses leasing data to estimate a fit out churn rate of 8.2 years for prime grade office buildings in the Sydney CBD area.
Under any of these cycle times, it is evident that fit out is treated as a short life
consumable rather than a long life durable (Forsythe and Wilkinson, 2015). More so, the
above scenario is exacerbated where tenants rather than base building owners pay for, and are responsible for, removing the fit out. This is exacerbated by the
ubiquitous “make good clause” that is common in most tenancy leasing agreements and“potentially causes “triple waste” (RICS, 2012, p. 10). Here, outgoing tenants must remove “their fit-out from the base building (including partitions, furniture, finishes, floor coverings and certain building services), which is followed by reinstatement of the pre-lease fit-out then, this will likely change again, when new tenants occupy the space and install their own new fit-out (RICS, 2012).
Obviously, the fit-out churn problem results in a waste problem that aggregates over the operational life of an office building
The greatest amount of waste is generated when a tenant leaves a space and it is prepared for or by the following tenant. There is also churn within the lifespan of a tenancy, as a tenant makes alterations to accommodate changes to workforce numbers or workplace arrangements.
complexity of the waste avoidance question and show that each material and each
problem needs to be tackled specifically. There are recurring issues that can be solved by systemic change, and these are addressed by this study.
Very little glass ends up in landfill due to its weight and the associated cost, and the ease
of access to alternative recycling uses. Equally, very little is recycled into its original use
because of the contamination risk to the continuous production line. A key reason for not
salvaging glazed assemblies is that the sizes are not standardized. To address this
designers would have to adapt plans for new work to accommodate the found sizes, or
alternatively, be more disciplined about specifying standard sizes.
Although in principle the gypsum core of plasterboard could be recycled into new
plasterboard, the reality of site contamination, the labour intensive collection and sorting,
and the difficulties of cost effectively removing the paper face mean that this is rare for
material sourced from commercial fit-outs. The best waste avoidance solution is
demountable systems, but these are not commonly used. The down cycling option of
grinding gypsum for agricultural use is limited by transport distance and cost. Plasterboard was universally nominated as a material that is always found in the waste stream.
The low cost of new ceiling tiles means the economics of recycling do not work in
Australia, despite the large quantities of waste generated. The transport costs make the
limited recycling opportunities unattractive. Aesthetics and poor management drive much of the replacement demand. Being modular, whole ceiling assemblies – grids and tiles –are suitable for reuse but the handling time and cost make it uneconomical. Its primary fate is landfill. The cardboard packaging of new tiles also creates a high volume of waste, although it can be recycled in the paper stream. Integrated fit-outs where make good or new build ceilings are not installed prior to tenant designs will avoid a wasteful removal of good ceilings, as will building management control of products used.
The widely recognised value of metals and the ease of access to cash-paying recycling
merchants means that any wastage is recovered at every stage of the process and very
little is sent to landfill. Even then, the residual material that does arrive in landfill is mostly
recovered. The ease of recycling makes the handling costs of salvage uneconomical.
Although very little metal contributes to landfill quantities, avoidance, retention and reuse
of material are higher on the waste hierarchy than recycling. Specification of modular
products and design for standard dimensions would reduce site offcuts. Dismantling to
recover material for reuse also needs to become more prevalent.
Carpet tiles have a reputation as a material with active product stewardship in place,
which is the case for a small number of manufacturers who use facilities for
recycling. Rearranging the wear pattern of tiles to increase their lifespan is not common despite this being a claimed major benefit. Aesthetics is the main driver for changing flooring. There is a small market in resale of second hand product. Most material goes to landfill, with some incinerated. More attention at specification stage to end of life options and recycled content is required, as well as good maintenance during product life and a take-up program for carpet tiles that is understood by the building owner.
Resilient vinyl flooring
Recycling of clean vinyl flooring such as offcuts is feasible, but colour mixing limits the
new product to a black-pigmented range. Transport distances, and contamination risk
from competitors’ products that use unacceptable ingredients, limit recycling of
demolished flooring tiles. Demolished sheet is not recycled due to cementitious
contamination, and the logistics of mixing it into tile production. Although most vinyl
flooring goes to landfill, it could be used for waste-to-energy, subject to EPA approval