The environmental impact of reuse in the construction sector: FutuREuse

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


This is one of a series of seven booklets that have been produced to serve as a
taste of what the FCRBE project aims to achieve. The subjects span the broad
spectrum of reuse, covering considerations before, during and after with useful
information to guide and inspire working with reclaimed materials. The booklets
also highlight environmental benefits, clarify grey areas and frequently asked
questions regarding best practices, whilst sparking curiosity for a future where use is reuse.

According to the standard which specifies the stages in a Life Cycle Assessment, EN 15804, all the outputs from disassembly, dismantling, demolition etc. leaving a building must initially be considered as waste and will also attain end-of-waste status if they meet an established set of criteria. However, although this convention determines the system boundary for LCAs, it does not necessarily match the legal position. In legal terms, a material removed with a view to being recovered or reused does not necessarily need to pass through the ‘waste’ stage after it has been removed.

In some countries, a distinction is made between the terms recovery and reuse. This allows them to distinguish between products which pass through the waste stage and those that do not. However, since all products pass through the waste stage in an LCA, no such distinction is made in that context. The present booklet therefore uses terms relating to recovery and reuse interchangeably.

Across Europe, the issue of circular economy and reuse in the construction industry is high on the political agenda. Environmental concerns such as the pressure on primary resources and climate change mean we need solutions so we can move more quickly towards sustainable development in the sector. One such solution is reusing materials. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool which helps with decision-making by assessing the environmental impact of building materials, building elements and whole buildings. An LCA quantifies the environmental performance of reusable or reclaimed products, so they can be compared to identify the main factors which will improve this impact.
The present booklet therefore begins by setting out how to quantify the environmental impact of a reclaimed construction product in line with European standards. We go on to show why simply assessing the global warming potential (in terms of the CO2 equivalent released into the atmosphere) is not enough to give a full overview of this environmental impact. We set out several case studies, and end with some points to note when assessing the environmental performance of reclaimed products.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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