Sustainability with prefabrication: reduce. reuse. recycle.

Posted on March 4, 2021 by Ed Muehlberg

These are the basic principals that everyone learns at a young age in order to become better stewards of our environment and our resources.  We are taught that taking these simple steps helps us reduce the waste we produce, which makes us more efficient with the materials we purchase and use. 

The prefabrication process matches up well with sustainable design and construction goals.  Prefabricated construction is a methodical approach that is most efficient when there is early involvement in the design process, and this early input can provide benefits for the entire building life cycle.  Prefabricated construction reduces the amount of on-site construction material waste, and structures are erected and enclosed faster, which reduces the amount of inefficient temporary on-site energy needed for construction completion.  Additionally, schedules are accelerated so buildings can operate sooner on their more efficient heating and cooling systems. 

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The creation and assembly of prefabricated construction elements at a manufacturing plant allows for that plant infrastructure and energy usage to be shared over a very large volume of construction products.  That manufacturing process can be reused over and over again which is more efficient use of materials and resources, helping reduce the overall impact on the environment.  Prefabricated precast is an extremely durable and long-lasting construction element that helps extend the life cycle of the project. 

When considering the effect of a construction material or process on the environment, the entire life cycle needs to be considered to provide an accurate picture of the true impact.  For example, a construction material may have a bit of a higher front end impact in regards to energy use during the manufacturing process, but the overall longevity of that material in the building’s lifecycle reduces the extent of that impact as it does not need to be replaced very often, compared to other products with a smaller front end impact but shorter life cycles.  The overall impact of these types of products can be greater on the environment.  To better understand a product’s true impact on our environment, a Life Cycle Analysis of that product should be examined.

Ed Muehlberg
Business Development Architect

 

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