Twenty million tonnes of construction materials end up in landfill each year – comprising almost half of Australia’s total waste. But what if there was a way to stop that waste from being produced in the first place?
University of South Australia PhD student Gabriela Dias Guimaraes intends to find it by developing a computer framework that helps designers, architects and engineers to take waste into consideration at every step of a building project.
The doctoral candidate from UniSA Creative received the judges' vote and $3000 at last week’s UniSA Three Minute Thesis (3MT) virtual final with her proposal to build a platform that calculates the end user waste component of all facets of construction.
Using her platform, from conception stage, designers will be able to estimate the environmental impact of each decision they make – from the specific materials used in a window frame to the size of a drywall – and adjust their design accordingly.
"We all know there are strategies for waste recovery, including reusing and recycling, but these options involve transportation, energy, water and site space," Dias Guimaraes says. "So instead of dealing with the waste generated in construction, why not try to prevent it in the first place? We know that a third of total construction and demolition waste is due to unexpected design changes or the wrong decisions made during the project phase, so this is an opportunity to correct that."
Dias Guimaraes has already developed a conceptual framework that indicates waste sources and factors, as well as identifying less environmentally friendly materials.
"It’s time we made all players in the building industry more accountable instead of passing on responsibility to the next stakeholder," she says. She will now compete at the 2020 Virtual Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition on Thursday 1 October.