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Assessing potential environmental impact and construction cost of reclaimed masonry walls

Elias Özkan, Soofia Tahira
Ulybin, Aleksey
Purpose The recovery of building materials and their reuse in new construction should be considered during the design stage of every new project. This study was conducted to quantify the potential environmental impacts and the economic feasibility of reusing waste material in new constructions with an applicable design solution. Methods Wall pieces reclaimed from the demolition debris of a historic building in St. Petersburg, Russia, were inspected for potential reuse, and their mechanical strengths were determined through laboratory tests. A proposal for the construction of a reclaimed wall was formulated, which took advantage of the strength of the recovered material and suggested solutions for overcoming its weaknesses. The proposed wall was tested for its potential environmental impact with the help of SimaPro software, and its cost was calculated by using current prices available on the websites of local companies providing materials or services. Finally, the environmental and cost factors of the reclaimed wall were compared with those of an equivalent new masonry wall. Results and discussion The strength tests carried out validated the feasibility of reusing the reclaimed wall sections. The results from the life cycle assessment (LCA) models in SimaPro indicated that a wall built with secondary blocks could have a lower environmental impact than one built with new bricks. On the other hand, due to the expensive equipment used in cutting the blocks, the cost of the reclaimed wall was calculated to be nearly 1.9 times the cost of an equivalent wall with new bricks. Conclusions LCA simulation of the new wall was conducted with generic datasets belonging to a broader geographical boundary, while those for the reclaimed wall were performed with data obtained from a small-scale case study conducted to determine the feasibility of reusing demolition waste. This study demonstrated that an efficient process for the recovery and reuse of such materials should include a design proposal that takes into consideration the parameters determined from an inspection of the condition of the debris, an assessment of the potential environmental impacts, and an estimation of the related costs. It was further determined that such a design can be instrumental in offering a less costly and more environmentally friendly alternative to dumping the rubble into landfills. The findings of this study will help fill the current gap in the literature regarding the LCA of walls, with a focus on the strength and condition of the wall material after demolition has taken place.