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Steps to Reduce Waste and Loss of Materials on Construction Sites

One of the jobs of a project manager in the construction industry is to reduce wastage and loss of building materials on construction sites. Material wastage is the difference between the value of materials delivered and accepted on site and those properly used as specified and accurately measured in the work after deducting the cost saving of substituted materials transferred elsewhere in which unnecessary cost and time may be increased by the material wastage.

Loss and waste of materials usually lead to economic loss, hence, a budget should cover purchase of the necessary equipment needed to manage materials properly and efficiently on a construction site. The equipment may be tools to cover and protect fragile materials, strong standing areas for material storage area and site access, or pallets to store formworks, scaffold fittings and draining fittings.

Factors Responsible for Waste and Loss of Materials

Causes of waste and loss of materials can be classified into six categories.

  • Design and documentation;
  • Procurement;
  • Material management;
  • Operation;
  • Residual; and
  • others.

The causes under the categories above include:

  • inadequate storage and protection;
  • poor or multiple handling;
  • poor site control;
  • over-ordering of material;
  • bad stock control;
  • lack of training; and
  • damage to material during delivery.

How to Reduce Waste and Loss of Materials on Construction Sites

  • Be involved early and prepare tools for handling
  • Be involved early in a project in order to encourage designs that require less waste. Request a comprehensive plan from your designer before you start to build. Also, prepare appropriate storage and handling of materials that can help in the reduction of waste and loss of materials. Depending on the project you are handling, some of the tools that can help in this regard are: strong standing areas for site access and material storage areas; tools to protect and cover components from detrimental weather influences; storage area for materials to store frames, pipes, windows, formwork, scaffold fittings, drainage fittings, and sheeting; loaders or lifter on to the loading platforms, and tarpaulin sheets for covering plasterboards.

  • Prepare construction site
  • Before ordering materials, prepare construction sites to ingress them. This will help avoid messy construction sites as well as prevent waste and loss of materials.

  • Use standard sizes and quantities of materials
  • Pan ahead of time by using the project specification to identify the materials needed, the right and standard sizes as well as the quantities needed for the project. Plan your ceiling heights and roofs in two-foot increments to reduce waste. Use standard lengths for wiring, pipes, ducting and siding. This will prevent ordering wrong sizes and quantities of materials.

  • Avoid over-ordering
  • Over-ordering of construction materials creates an untidy construction site and leads to material loss. Materials such as insulation materials, faced or rubbed stonework, plasterboard linings, and cladding trims increase the expenses for the constructor if over-ordered as they demand a certain cost when it comes to delivering and disposing of.

  • Arrange deliveries to match work stages
  • Each material should be delivered on the construction site at the right time and stage it is needed to avoid storing materials longer than necessary on site.

  • Ensure storage areas are safe, secure and weatherproof
  • In as much as it is necessary to make adequate provision for tools for material management and storage areas, it is also important to keep them safe, secure and weatherproof. Keeping storage areas and tools safe and secure will help guide against theft while keeping them weatherproof will ensure that materials remain in good condition even during harsh and extreme temperature.

  • Minimise rework from errors and poor workmanship
  • There must be conscious effort on the part of project managers, contractors and subcontractors to make sure that all their team members are adequately trained in handling different kinds of materials. Only qualified and highly experienced workers should be employed to handle construction projects. This will minimize errors during construction and guide against reworking.

  • Don’t accept poor quality or damaged deliveries
  • Materials must be delivered on construction sites as and when due and in good shape. Careful inspection should be done upon delivery and you notice that materials are damaged or of low quality, the best thing is to reject them.

  • Don’t remove protective packaging from materials before they are needed.
  • When materials are delivered and are certified good, their protective packaging should be intact until they are needed.

Reuse Reusable Materials

Some construction materials can be used multiple times. In this case, the following tips should be considered.

  • Collect off cuts and use first instead of new materials.
  • Co-ordinate trades so left over materials can be used by another constructor.
  • Fix temporary materials so they can be dismantled and reused many times.
  • If you can’t reuse materials on the same project, aim to use on others. Return, sell or donate unused and salvaged materials. Repair items so they can be reused or returned to the supplier.
  • Don’t reuse materials or items which are not fit for purpose.

Recyclable Materials

Though most construction materials are not recyclable, the few ones that are recyclable should be identified as they can go into making new construction products. Ask your waste contractor how they can help you to recycle.

  • Shop around to find out which service suits your site best, giving a high waste recovery rate, for the right cost.
  • Sort different waste materials on site. Locate containers (e.g. skips or wheelie bins) close to working areas and use clear signs to show which material goes in each.
  • Keep materials for recycling clean, dry and separate from other materials or waste.
  • Where space on site is limited ask your waste contractor if they can sort your waste at their facility for recycling.
  • Don’t use a waste contractor if you cannot verify that their waste licenses are relevant and in date. Don’t burn or bury waste to dispose of it.
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