WASTED OPPORTUNITIES: ​a model for the sustainable recalibration of suburbia.​​

Susannah Howlett

[email protected]
Pub Priv Threshold

The construction industry is the single largest consumer of raw materials and is responsible for approximately 50% of all waste produced in New Zealand. These materials are increasingly difficult to extract, the process of which exploits our already unbalanced ecosystem. Despite this, New Zealand's idealistic perception of the 'Kiwi dream' - the singular detached dwelling on a sizeable plot, has persisted, resulting in unrestrained levels of consumption and waste that are anticipated to continue as the demand for residential housing grows. Neither realistic nor sustainable, we need to rethink not only how we live, but also how we use construction materials to ensure the prosperity of future generations.

Can we, as architects, use construction and demolition waste to facilitate a more sustainable mode of living, and thereby ease the strain on the environment that has resulted from our consumerist society? 

Wide Existing House 1
These quantified materials would typically be directed to landfill under existing linear construction methods of demolition.

By observing the transition of the construction sector from a linear 'take, make, dispose methodology', this thesis advances an industry which is circular in nature, through the reuse of construction and demolition waste. The project being investigated through this thesis supports an online application designed to facilitate the exchange of salvaged construction and demolition waste. Implications of the application will be applied at the scale of a typical Auckland suburban site to demonstrate how the principles of a circular economy can be used in support of an architectural condition, without compromising on cost, quality or aesthetic. It also shows that, as architects, we can offer design solutions to encourage a paradigm shift in focus away from the contemporary perception of the suburban ideal, the 'Kiwi dream', toward a denser, more environmental and socially sustainable mode of living.

The ‘ReSource’ application.
The circular life-cycle of a material using timber as an example.
Materials House 2
The material catalogue separates out materials recovered from the existing house together with materials accessed through the ReSource application to demonstrate the possible reuse of demolition waste.
The design proposal does away with the economically rationalised ‘construction formula’ of the typical suburban model, for small scale standalone dwellings which demonstrate a more experiential and communally enhanced condition of living.
Long Plan
This framework is intended to start on a typical Auckland site before becoming a catalyst for expansion across the block and finally a model which can be replicated across other established suburban locations.