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Re-defining Waste: Designing Buildings for a Sustainable Future
Re-defining Waste: Designing Buildings for a Sustainable Future

It’s time to address our collective oversight when it comes to waste management.  Often relegated to the bottom of our priority list, waste is only now being given the attention it deserves during architectural planning.  However, relying solely on dumpster bins and trash compactors is not enough. In this blog, we will explore the crucial role of waste reduction in architectural design and propose practical ways to create buildings that generate less trash.

The Neglected Aspect of Waste Reduction in Architectural Design

Architectural plans typically meet the bare minimum requirements, focusing on waste bylaws and city codes. While occasional endeavors for a LEED platinum rating exist, the majority simply aim to pass city codes. Although codes and bylaws ensure functional buildings with safe waste disposal and potential recycling, they offer little guidance on waste reduction strategies. We must recognize that recycling alone cannot solve our materialistic and consumeristic tendencies. To truly address waste concerns, it is vital to incorporate waste reduction principles during the design phase of projects.

Designing Buildings for Minimal Waste

While achieving zero waste may be unrealistic, we can take steps to minimize waste generation. Let’s consider a mixed-use complex comprised of residential towers and commercial space as an example. One effective approach is to incorporate a free market and a share & repair station within the complex.

A free market will provide a designated space where tenants can deposit items they no longer need, creating an opportunity for collaboration with charities for donation purposes. Similarly, a share & repair station will serve as a DIY area equipped with basic tools, empowering tenants to build or fix items themselves. By encouraging shared resources, individuals can avoid unnecessary purchases and significantly reduce waste. This collaborative approach not only fosters community building but also makes a significant impact on waste reduction.

Additional Sustainable Design Ideas

In addition to the free market and share & repair station concepts, there are other sustainable design ideas that should be considered during the initial design phase. Installing water refilling stations in public spaces promotes reusable water bottles, effectively reducing plastic waste. Furthermore, integrating community gardens or greenhouses into the building design provides residents with the opportunity to grow their own food while utilizing organic waste for composting. By eliminating the need for residents to purchase soil in plastic bags, the community can create a closed-loop system that promotes sustainability and reduces waste. It is essential to allocate space for these initiatives during the design phase to avoid costly retrofits.

The Importance of Community Spaces

Modern architectural design may overlook the significance of community spaces, especially when budget and space constraints are prevalent. However, these “third spaces” play a crucial role in fostering social interaction, sharing ideas, tools, and resources, and combating the loneliness pervasive in our society. By incorporating these community spaces into building design, we not only promote a sense of belonging but also contribute to waste reduction initiatives.

A Sustainable Future

A paradigm shift is necessary in the way we approach architectural design to create sustainable communities. By prioritizing waste reduction during the design phase, we can transform our built environments into hubs of sustainability. Incorporating free markets, share & repair stations, water refilling stations, bike repair stations, community gardens, and on-site composting programs will have a profound impact on waste reduction. Architects and developers can promote a sustainable living model by recognizing the importance of these community spaces, where people can connect, share, and thrive while simultaneously minimizing waste.

By implementing these strategies, we can pave the way for a future where waste is no longer an afterthought but an integral part of our conscious design choices. Together, we can redefine waste and build a sustainable future.

By:  Saira Shaji, Waste Generation Specialist | Toronto

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