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Pioneering Net Zero Construction Waste in Commercial Property
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Pioneering Net Zero Construction Waste in Commercial Property

Setting an important example for the property sector to follow, we are proud to have been part of the first commercial-level Net Zero Waste Level 1 (construction waste) certification in South Africa.


Shortly after the new Balwin Headquarters in Corlett Drive, Johannesburg, opened its doors in 2021, it received a 6-Star Green Star New Build design rating and a Net Zero Carbon Level 1 design certification. The latest achievement is a Net Zero Waste Level 1 As Built certification for the project’s exemplary construction waste management during the refurbishment and addition process.

Credit Paragon Architects

Adaptive Reuse

A key waste reduction strategy was reusing an existing building. The already iconic Creative Council building on the M1 highway near Melrose Arch, designed by Paragon Architects, created the canvas for the new project, which was also undertaken by Paragon. While already a striking building, upgrades were needed to ensure it became fit-for-purpose, and to improve the energy efficiency and other sustainable aspects of the building.

Credit Paragon Architects

Repurposing Materials

The original design consisted of a two-storey concrete building atop a rectilinear three-storey parking podium, separated by three double volume, metal-glad, conical forms. During the transformation into Balwin’s Headquarters, these conical structures were dismantled. Instead of sending the demolition waste to landfill, 100 lengths of second-hand steel U-channels were repurposed on two different sites. Other salvaged metal work and demolition rubble was also recycled, including over 1000m³ of fill material in the form of broken up and no-fines concrete that was used for road construction elsewhere.

Components typically replaced during a refurbishment, such as ducts, piping, electrical infrastructure, balustrades and sanitary fixtures, were reused. Additionally, 68.64 tonnes of gypsum waste from the dismantling of internal office partitions and ceilings were sent for composting.

A detailed Building Users’ Guide encourages consideration of the reusability of new materials during future refurbishments. The guide also includes direction for the management and recycling of operational waste now that the building is occupied.

Diversion from Landfill

Given the extensive refurbishment to the building, there was a considerable amount of demolition and construction waste. In total, the project has diverted a significant 97.14% of total construction waste from landfill. The remaining 2.86% (amounting to 64.85 tCO2 ) was offset by purchasing waste-related carbon credits linked to the Stellenbosch Community Recycling project.

Separate colour-coded skips were provided on site for each different waste stream. The construction crew had to always keep the site neat and tidy.

The process of attaining the certification required weighing and measuring all the construction waste during the refurbishment process. Leago Environmental Projects created a comprehensive Waste Management Plan to guide the construction team on how to maximise the reusability of waste material on site. This included separation and sorting before it was sent to be recycled off site, which is the most efficient way of maximising reuse and recycling.

The main contractor devised and executed a comprehensive demolition plan which meticulously outlined how the existing components would be dismantled into the various material types. This enabled a smooth on-site waste separation process, facilitating collection by external recycling contractors.

Initially, finding trustworthy recycling contractors to guarantee that the construction waste was actually recycled and not sent to landfill, was a challenge. However Onsite Solutions, the main contractor, was able to navigate this.

Collaborative Effort

Being able to reuse and recycle almost 100% of the construction waste required a huge commitment from the team and was not without challenges. Jennifer Dean, Sustainable Building Consultant at Solid Green, said, “Documentation was a challenge and coordinating the weighing of waste by different subcontractors was not easy, but our success demonstrates everyone’s dedication to a achieving an important shared goal.”

A Shining Example

Balwin HQ sets a remarkable precedent for sustainable construction waste management, shining a light on the benefits of adaptive reuse. It proves that minimising construction waste is possible with careful planning and collaboration. Waste is not an inevitability; it is a choice.

Imagine if all commercial projects were to divert 97% of their construction waste? At Solid Green, we’re committed to creating a built environment where zero construction waste is the norm. Get in touch with us, if you’d like to discuss how you can make this a reality on your next project.

Balwin HQ Project page.

Credit Paragon Architects

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