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Last edited 22 Jun 2021
It’s always best, when considering demolishing a building, to ask certain questions before beginning any work – even planning work. The first, and perhaps the biggest, is to ask why you want to demolish the existing site – can it be redeveloped or can elements of the site be kept?
A pre-demolition audit can help answer these questions, along with assessing the materials within the buildings and their potential value. When you have all of this information, that’s when you need to look at whether to refurbish, renovate or demolish.
 So, you have decided to demolish
What will you be doing with all of those materials? Best practice says you should try to reclaim as much waste as possible, and there are four key ways to handle demolition waste reclamation, known as the Four R’s – each with their own advantages:
What areas can be reused in their current form? Timber or metal beams, intact fireplaces, heating or electrical systems? If these, and more, can be reused in the new building on the same site, this will help you save on some new build materials cost and will reduce time spent recycling or disposing of materials, saving time in the process.
When materials on your site can’t be reused, can they be recycled? This is taking the materials and using them in a different form, for example taking a timber beam and shredding this, to reform into MDF or a similar material – for use in the new building.
This option is often best for teams that aren’t able to go through options 1-3, for example if there’s little time to complete these activities. Recovering materials in essence a means to send all mixed (unsorted) waste materials to a facility, where they will look to reuse or recycle them externally.
The more material that can be dealt with using a mixture of the above options, the greater the chance of saving money through on build costs, selling materials that have been identified as having value, or even just avoiding landfill tax.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building Research Establishment.
- BRE articles.
- BRE Trust.
- Design for deconstruction – helping construction unlock the benefits of the circular economy.
- End of life potential.
- How to conduct a pre-demolition audit.
- Pre-construction information.
- Site waste management plan.
- Sustainable materials.
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