After hosting a Change by Design session on The Art of Urban Mining with Resa Weber, it was clear that architects and designers are very receptive to the idea so why has the building industry not yet integrated Urban Mining into its sustainable practices? What are the obstacles standing in the way of widespread adoption by design professional?
Urban mining at its core repurposes valuable resources by reusing them in the building process. It shifts the lifecycle of materials away from depletion (take, make, trash) towards regeneration (take, make, return). With the building industry generating over 600 million tons of construction wastegenerated each year, it’s in quite a unique position to make a difference. So, what’s standing in the way? While it is true that - for instance - 98% of steel itself can be recycled, materials with mixed components (i.e. glass, concrete, drywall) are more difficult to bring back into the process. Yet, the biggest obstacle in the way of widespread adoption is the lack of a supportive legal and logistical framework in most jurisdictions.
So what can we do? Keep asking about it. For instance, for the products you specify the most, talk to your reps, etc. Talk to your building code officials and other professionals in the industry. Regulations and business practices will eventually evolve as there is no other sustainable way forward. In the meantime, if you have resources you'd like to share, please do.