How to reduce your building waste and save your money

How to reduce your building waste and save your money

Here at New Zealand Certified Builders, we talk a lot about how to make your home more sustainable – with simple tricks to reduce energy use and save money in the process. But, as builders, we know your journey to making your home more sustainable should start, well, at the start. As soon as you have plans drawn up for your home or renovation, there are ways to make your home more sustainable by reducing your building waste.

The construction and demolition industry is one of the largest waste producers in New Zealand – it’s estimated it contributes up to 50 per cent of all waste generated in New Zealand. That’s about 1.7 million tonnes of waste from our renovations and building projects each year!

With that in mind, we want to help you help us reduce building waste wherever possible. If you are planning a build, demolition or renovation, and the project is managed properly, there are several ways you can reduce the amount of rubbish created. Not only is this kinder to the environment, but it can also be kinder to your wallet! Reduced building waste has positive environmental, financial, and social/community impact, as well as conserving space in existing landfills, which reduces the need for future landfills.

Your first aim should be to minimise the amount of waste generated on your project, then ensure as much waste material as possible is reused or recovered. There are opportunities to reduce building material waste at all stages of construction and demolition projects.

Detailed planning is an essential part of the process. If you get your measurements accurate, you will avoid having to cut items down and creating unusable offcuts. Most building materials come in set sizes, so it can pay to work with your builder and designer/architect to create your plans with those sizes in mind – maximising the material usage and minimising cost and waste headed for landfill.

Sending waste to landfill should be your last resort because building waste contributes to harmful chemicals leaching into soil and waterways via landfill, plus methane emissions into the air, as the waste breaks down and rots.

Choose your materials carefully. Good-quality materials last longer, reducing your maintenance requirements later. Choosing manufacturers which use minimal packaging will also reduce waste, however, make sure there is sufficient packaging to protect the product, so it doesn’t get damaged in transit.

Always try and work with suppliers with sustainability and waste-management certifications. Consider the end-of-life of the products you choose, too. Can they be reused or recycled when you no longer need them?

Once you’re in the building process, avoid making changes or alterations to your plans as one the biggest contributions to waste on site is late design changes. Reworking design changes can account for a large percentage of cost overruns, as well as causing delays and generating additional waste.

If you’re renovating – deconstruct, don’t demolish.  Deconstruction is when a building is deliberately taken apart so materials can be recovered for recycling and reuse. Salvaged materials can be sorted on site and resold to the community or reused in the renovations. Taking this approach will greatly reduce your tip fees, which are usually higher for mixed waste (typical from a demolition process) and lower for sorted waste. Taking a deconstructive approach, rather than a demolition one, can also reduce noise, dust, and traffic on surrounding areas – thus reducing the effect of hazardous or nuisance wastes on the community.

Before any demo or renovation work starts, take note of which materials can potentially be repurposed. For example, roof tiles, timber, cladding, windows, doors, electrical and/or plumbing fixtures. Even kitchen cabinetry, benchtops, and bathroom fittings, such as vanities and baths, can be made to look brand new with some imagination and a small investment.

Native timber floors and decking are both popular items for reuse, as is steel roofing. Old concrete bricks and rubble can be repurposed for use in building roads, and even polystyrene and cardboard packaging can be recycled. Plasterboard is also great for breaking down compact soils like clay as it helps to reduce sodium in the soil and increase calcium. Even old framing is great for firewood and a money-saver for winter.

Another way you can reduce waste is by keeping your building site organised. Ensure there are dedicated waste bins, with clear signage for sorting; all designated areas should be fenced off and out of the way. As a result, you will eliminate hazards and minimise liability, while also limiting access to the public (so they think twice about dumping any of their additional rubbish on your site).

In summary, working efficiently through accurate, detailed designs will help reduce waste and disposal costs, while revenue can be earned from salvaged building parts and recycled materials. And always remember, it is just as important to reduce your carbon footprint in the construction phase of your home as it is when you are living in it!

To discuss the best ways to reduce building waste on your build or renovation, talk to your nearest NZCB builder. They’re qualified experts who will happily help you out!

To find a nearby NZCB builder, use the Find A Builder search function on

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