Putting Design for Disassembly to Work

During workshops in Boston, Dallas, and Seattle this summer, architects, designers, and builders pushed their sustainability knowledge to new levels, seeking innovative ideas and solutions to incorporating true circular design into their projects. During the three-hour sessions, design pros and manufacturers took a deep dive into advanced Built Positive concepts and participated in design charrettes to create a new building prototype for Google with a central focus on designing for disassembly.

One of five core principles of Built Positive, Design for Disassembly and Recovery considers how buildings can be easily deconstructed so that materials, products, and components can be recovered, their value retained, and their materials meaningfully cycled.

Designing with disassembly in mind considers some of the following ideas:

  • Simplicity of structure and form
  • Creating access to avoid damage during repair, replacement, or reconfiguration
  • Interchangeability, modularity, and standardization of design and products
  • Using mechanical connections over chemical connections
  • Designing to the efficiency of labor or mechanical separation
  • Documenting materials and methods for deconstruction

During the three-hour workshops, participants divided into teams to develop concepts for a hypothetical building for Google that would eliminate the concept of waste, ensure responsible sourcing of materials, and improve the ability for deconstruction and reuse as it aged or the needs of occupants changed.

In Seattle, teams created the “Google Lodge,” a high-rise structure to be crafted using heavy laminated timber with a wooden dowel fastening system. Among the elements focused on disassembly:

  • Lego-like raised floor systems
  • Components with RFID tags or QR codes to identify recycling takeback opportunities
  • Demountable glass fronts; removable glass coatings
  • Flexible and demountable interior aluminum framing
  • Living furniture
  • Bacteria-based paint
  • Virtual (digital) finishes
  • Concrete foundation that can be electronically demolished

The events were presented in partnership with Google and BuildingGreen, and were sponsored by Shaw, Tarkett, Mecho Systems, Steelcase, thyssenkrupp, Construction Specialties, and Vitro.

Check out a photo album from all three events here.

Ready to advance your own learning? Here are several opportunities:

  • Learn at Greenbuild. Join us for a full-day, pre-Greenbuild workshop, “Built Positive: Exploring Buildings as Material Banks,” Nov. 7 that will guide you in coupling your growing expertise in selecting safe ingredients with thoughtful design strategies that consider the values and impacts of materials beyond their immediate use.
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