Project objective

To provide a new best practice standard and toolset to incentivise and support a 60-80% resource recovery target during office strip-out and refurbishment.

Project background

Office tenancies in the City of Sydney are on average renewed every 7 to 10 years. Traditionally a large proportion of the material from office refurbishments end up in landfill as a result of time and cost pressures, but it doesn’t need to be like this.  Simple changes to contracting and on-site work procedures can support a markedly improved outcome and create downstream markets for resource recovery, moving the industry toward a circular economy that values all resources.

The Better Buildings Partnership is working with industry to significantly reduce the waste generated from commercial office refurbishments. Within the CBD alone it is estimated that approximately 12,000 tonnes of material is removed each year from office work stations, cabinetry and other furniture made out of engineered timbers.  With no recycling technology currently available for this waste stream in Australia, all of this stripout material is sent to landfill.

Across the local government area it is estimated that we could in fact be diverting up to 60,000 tonnes of stripout waste from landfill each year across the commercial office, accommodation, entertainment and retail sectors.  The opportunities for resource recovery are enormous.

Key resources – refurbishment waste

Research undertaken for the BBP by the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures into tenancy fitout material procurement attitudes and practices identified a great number of issues surrounding refurbishment waste. These ranged from complex contracts and lack of ‘ownership’ of waste between old and new tenancies (as part of fulfilling make good clauses), to the large volumes of waste, and competitive markets for refurbished and reused fitout materials such as workstations.

Other barriers including time constraints, contractual responsibilities between sub-contractors and the design and specification process of the fitout by the tenant also lead to waste from refurbishment going straight to landfill. Office refurbishment therefore represents an immediate opportunity to reduce commercial waste in the City of Sydney and increase recycling and reuse of fitout materials.

In collaboration with industry and the Sydney Industrial Ecology Network, the partnership has developed Stripout Waste Guidelines. These guidelines create a new best practice standard to achieve a minimum resource recovery target of 60% during the office strip-out and refurbishment process. These guidelines and associated workbook provide a framework to improve stripout operations, procurement processes, and ensure consistent measurement and reporting.