This research is intended to provide a proof of concept of circular methods applied to timber in the construction industry and to showcase the feasibility of reusing and upcycling building materials.
In addition to demonstrating the technical feasibility of selective demolition and opportunities for structural reuse of timber within upcycled laminated wood products, this report also highlights key challenges to the process that need to be addressed.
Almost 90% of London’s construction and demolition waste arises from demolition and refurbishment and the majority of tonnage is mixed aggregates. In 2018, more than half was recovered for recycling/reclamation of inorganic materials such as glass but only 8% was recovered for the recycling/reclamation of organic materials, such as wood.
In 2018, it was estimated that across the UK, 2.3M tonnes of timber is reclaimed annually from construction and demolition activities. However, most reclaimed timber is chipped and only around 2.5% is kept in its original form for reuse or re-manufacturing .
Experience shows that reclaimed timber, by its very nature, can easily be worked and transformed, allowing it to serve various functions. Also, as a biogenic material that releases carbon dioxide and methane at its end of life (through decomposition or incineration), it is particularly important to manage the retention of sequestered carbon (EN16485 chapter 220.127.116.11).
There are known barriers to timber reclamation, and these include: the production of flooring, panelling and cladding with glues and sealants that contain hazardous materials; treatments that contain heavy metals such as lead or flame retardant or fungicide; block flooring fixed with concrete; and, deterioration of quality due to humidity, bugs, fungus, etc. Despite the barriers, products still have significant reclamation potential if they are easy to dismantle, store, have standard dimensions, and proven quality .