PhD student halting construction waste

University of South Australia PhD student Gabriela Dias Guimaraes is developing a computer framework that helps designers, architects and engineers take waste into consideration at every step of construction projects.

20 million tonnes of construction materials are destined for landfill each year – comprising almost half of Australia’s total waste.

University of South Australia PhD student Gabriela Dias Guimaraes won the judge’s vote at UniSA Three Minute Thesis (3MT) virtual final, presented in partnership with The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, with her proposal to build a platform that calculates the end user waste component of all facets of construction.

University of South Australia PhD student Gabriela Dias Guimaraes.

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, or 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,” she says.

Dias Guimaraes has already developed a conceptual framework that indicates waste sources and factors, as well as identifying materials which are less environmentally friendly.

“It’s time we made all players in the building industry more accountable instead of passing on responsibility to the next stakeholder.”

Dias Guimaraes will now compete at the 2020 Virtual Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition on Thursday 1 October.

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