Transport project frees houses/materials to “circular economy”.
A suburban house is among construction items being given away as a key Auckland transport project is poised to start.
It is one of 100 houses and commercial buildings being deconstructed and removed to make way for the next stage of the Eastern Busway - a project which will create separate bus lanes away from traffic for new high-frequency bus services to connect people from the Botany/Pakuranga area with the rail network in Panmure.
The house (one of more than 20 being relocated) - along with large amounts of building materials and household items ranging from carpet to washing lines - is being recovered for re-use as part of an initiative, overseen by the Eastern Busway Alliance, to help build circular economy principles into major projects.
This approach, well advanced in the UK and parts of Europe, is an idea through which building and associated building materials reaching the end of their original intended use, are given a new function - the house, for example, will be donated as a training ‘do-up’ for school students aiming at careers in construction.
In a circular economy materials are continually reused, recycled and repurposed focusing on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, allowing products and materials to be re-used to the maximum extent possible.
By doing so, construction materials can be used in a more sustainable and efficient way, minimising their environmental impact.
Claude Dewerse, deconstruction advisor with the alliance, a partnership set up by Auckland Transport (AT) for the design, consent and building of the busway, says the normal brief for demolition teams is just to get rid of everything: “We are asking them to rethink, to look at what can be reused rather than recycled or sent to landfill.
“It’s a new way of thinking about materials as they reach the end of their original intended use; it’s looking at what and where items can be redirected for further use,” he says. “Construction and demolition are responsible for about 50 per cent of waste in Aotearoa and (with the busway project) we’re on a journey to understand what we can do to reduce this and how to go about it.”
AECOM New Zealand is one of the alliance partners alongside AT, Fletcher Construction, ACCIONA and Jacobs. The firm’s Australia/New Zealand circular economy lead, Brad Parker, says the approach is crucial: “Globally, there is a crisis; up to 93 per cent of all materials used are virgin materials; we have to change.”
The house is being given to the Ara Education Charitable Trust, a collaboration between the construction industry, government and five south Auckland secondary schools to teach basic skills to students transitioning from school to jobs in construction.
Dewerse says the students will do up the house, which will then be sold with the money used to fund future trust courses. He says the other relocated houses will be offered for sale through contractors, along with a lot of the materials being recovered by reuse partners that would otherwise be disposed of as waste.
Among materials and products being reused are windows, doors, native timber flooring, appliances, fencing, landscape materials, carpet, wood, garden sheds, plants and washing lines – much of which is going to people in the local community.
“We are working with the Onehunga Community Recycling Centre to get materials back into the community,” he says.
“One local is making tables out of old floorboards, another couple have propagated cuttings from a hibiscus tree, giving it a second life, and we have given plants and trees to local gardening groups,” Dewerse says. “We are also repurposing structural steel and timber for temporary works on the project itself and using crushed concrete to make temporary roads on site.
“Although it doesn’t sound a lot, we have a target to reuse 3 per cent of the waste materials and are currently tracking at over 2 per cent. While diversion of suitable material from landfill to recycling is becoming the norm, this project is also targeting material reuse which is harder to do and I am not aware of another project recovering material to this extent.
“In my mind, the reaction (to the concept) from the community and the construction sector on this project has been very positive and hopefully this approach can be a model for the future.”
Parker says AECOM is working with circular economy principles approach on many local and international projects. “Only about 7 per cent of the global economy is circular - a percentage down from 9.1 per cent in 2018.”
He says a 2023 report, The Circularity Gap (produced by Circle Economy, a global impact group based in Amsterdam), contends that, if a circular economy could be implemented across the global systems of food, built environment, manufactured goods, consumables, mobility and transport, virgin material extraction would reduce by 34 per cent, with greenhouse gas emissions reduced to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.
While Parker is optimistic progress towards this goal can be achieved, he says there are barriers to overcome. One challenge is around education and knowledge of the circular economy: “It’s not a brand-new concept, but it can be difficult to understand all aspects.”
He says there are also challenges in having suitable infrastructure for recovery of materials, the right markets to feed recovered materials into and policies to enable this. Upfront cost is also a barrier, particularly as the circular economy is still relatively immature.
“Another important challenge is the presence of set, agreed-upon metrics for the implementation of circular economy principles and the ability to track outcomes. These are limited, even at a global level, but metrics are a great tool to help all parts of material value chain understand how they can impact and embrace a circular economy.”
Parker says the approach will not only lead to environmental, cost and economic benefits, but to greater efficiencies. “It is about making sure resources and materials last as long as possible, are resilient and, when they get to the end of their intended use, be returned to the system.”
The Eastern Busway is about more than just better transport; it is expected to increase access to jobs and education, connect people to social and community opportunities, attract investment and growth, enable urban development and help reduce emissions.
The Panmure-Pakūranga section of the busway opened in 2021 and construction on the next stage is now progressing. AT, the alliance and mana whenua are partnering to ensure Māori cultural values and perspectives are integrated in all stages of the project.
The busway is expected to transport 18,000 people each day from the south-eastern suburbs to the rail network in Panmure. As a result, travel between Botany and Britomart in the Auckland CBD by bus and train will be about 40 minutes or 20 minutes quicker than current journey times.
For more information go to: easternbusway.nz