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WSI Saint-Gobain Sustainable Cities Challenge, SDG 11WSI

Design a solution to promote use of sustainable building materials or create a circular economy in building construction.

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When buildings, roadways and bridges are demolished to make way for new construction, where do all the discarded materials go? About 90% of demolition debris in the U.S. goes straight to landfills – and even new building materials can end up in landfills. As much as 30% of materials delivered to new construction sites in the U.S. may ultimately be discarded. Waste generation seems to be an inevitable part of traditional demolition and construction.

In 2018, industry analysts predicted that global construction waste was likely to double by 2025 – with building projects worldwide generating nearly 2.2 billion tons of wood, shingles, asphalt, concrete, gypsum, plastics, cardboard, metal, and ceramics waste. Transporting and disposing of all that debris is resource-intensive and the environmental impact doesn't end there. We also risk groundwater contamination when chemicals leach from discarded debris at dump sites.

The U.S. is not alone in facing this problem. The Asia Pacific region actually surpasses North America in terms of generating construction waste. Even European nations that seemed to have made significant advances in waste management wrestle with the problem. While they've successfully reduced debris in landfills, the C02 emissions from waste-to-energy incinerators are alarming.

But what if we recycled building materials at scale? What if we looked for ways to reduce waste during construction or designed reusable building components? What if re-envisioned building construction as a circular economy where building materials are sustainably sourced, designed to age gracefully and feed back into the system at the end of their useful life?

Your challenge is to think of ways to build homes, schools, offices, factories, transportation facilities, and other parts of the built environment more sustainably. Solutions might involve things such as:

  • take-back programs to promote recycling of building materials
  • businesses to turn recycled building materials into other useful products
  • design and construction innovations to make reusable building components popular
  • demolition and construction techniques to reduce waste
  • new types of building materials that can be obtained from renewable source
  • programs that incentivize adaptive reuse of buildings instead of demolition

Saint-Gobain

Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and solutions for the construction, mobility, healthcare and other industrial application markets. Developed through a continuous innovation process, they can be found everywhere in our living places and daily life, providing wellbeing, performance and safety, while addressing the challenges of sustainable construction, resource efficiency and the fight against climate change. This strategy of responsible growth is guided by the Saint-Gobain purpose, “MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER HOME”, which responds to the shared ambition of all the women and men in the Group to act every day to make the world a more beautiful and sustainable place to live in. For more information, visit www.saint-gobain.com

€38.1 billion in sales in 2020

More than 167,000 employees, located in 70 countries

Committed to achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2050

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Explore this challenge

"At Saint-Gobain, our purpose is to Make The World a Better Home. Help us bring this purpose to life!"

Anirban Ghosh / Senior Process Engineer, Saint-Gobain

I want to green my city!

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