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Guidance on reuse of structural members

  • Published on February 12, 2024

Reuse of structural members in buildings is often associated with uncertainties regarding fulfilling requirements in the national building codes. The guidance aims to clarify which rules apply for structural members to be reused in buildings, how they can be met, and whose responsibility it is.

The environmental impact of the construction and property sector accounts for a significant part of society’s environmental impact.

 Reuse has the potential to decrease resource extraction and reduce climate impact compared to manufacturing new products and disposing products which are still technically usable. This is particularly the case for structural members in buildings, as they often contribute significantly to the buildings total environmental impact when they are manufactured. Further, it can prevent emergence of waste and promote maintenance of existing buildings.

 The guidance is a means of informing and supporting contractors on how to start reusing structural members and make a shift towards sustainable consumption and production. [MI1] The guidance clarifies which legal requirements reused structural members must meet. It also provides examples of what considerations may be needed to verify load-bearing capacity and performance of structural members that are reused. The guidance describes the entire reuse process, although the focus is on clarifying legal requirements and how these can be verified.

 Practical considerations such as disassembly, transport, storage, processing and more play a major role in the reuse process. As these are project specific and can often vary, the guidance does not cover these in detail. It does however provide general guidance on essential characteristics, existing documentation, hazardous substances, as well as environmental and health related aspects to consider for common structural members (such as concrete, steel, wood, and brick).

 To reuse a structural member, an assessment of its properties is required. The ability of a structural member to contribute to a building meeting the technical property requirements according to the Planning and Building Act (2010:900), PBL, must then be assessed. In short, the assessment consists of answering two questions:

1.      Is the load-bearing structure and the structural member safe to use now, and will it continue to be so in the future?

2.      Can the load-bearing structure and the structural member be used for their intended purpose today and in the future?

 Properties that may need to be assessed are for example strength, changes in shape (shrinkage and other long-term effects), stiffness, dynamic response, resistance to fire and other accidental loads, exposure to weather and wind as well as chemicals and environmental aspects. In cases where a structural member is dismantled and moved, there is a need to assess additional aspects and plan for how disassembly, transport, storage, and testing are to be carried out.

 By clarifying the legal requirements as stated in the PBL regarding considerations for reuse, the guidance is expected to contribute to simplifying reuse of structural members. This also applies to the general guidance on practical considerations for reuse of structural members provided.

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