Waste Minimisation in Office Refurbishment Projects: An Australian Perspective

Mary Hardie*, 1, Graham Miller2, Shahed Khan3
1 School of Engineering, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, South Penrith Distribution Centre, NSW, 1797, Australia
2 4/16 Filburn Street, Scarborough, WA 6019, Australia
3 Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987 Perth, WA 6845, Australia

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© 2011 Hardie et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Engineering, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, South Penrith Distribution Centre, NSW, 1797, Australia; Tel: +61 02 4736 0921; Fax: +61 02 4736 8333; E-mail:


The refurbishment of commercial buildings is growing as a percentage of overall construction activity in Australia and this trend is likely to continue. Refurbishment generates a significant waste stream much of which is potentially reusable or recyclable. Despite this potential, several factors are known to inhibit the amount of recycling that actually occurs on renovation projects. In order to identify the reasons causing this reluctance, a process of monitoring a project and consultation with experts in the area was carried out. Twenty three experts experienced in commercial refurbishment projects and three waste contractors with specific knowledge of construction waste were interviewed. Waste receipts for an ongoing case study project were monitored. Three major factors were found to inhibit recycling rates: the presence of any form of asbestos in the building; the continued occupation of the building during construction; and the breaking up of a large project into small separate contracts for different stages of the refurbishment so that there were no economies of scale for the contractor who wanted to recycle. Current rates for reuse and recycling of materials were collected from the experts. The results revealed a considerable variation in practice between companies and indicated areas which should be targeted to improve performance.

Keywords: Waste minimisation, recycling, reuse, refurbishment projects, asbestos, Australia.