8 - The Problem
When researching for my thesis, I explored the following problems:1. Embodied CarbonCarbon is emitted at every stage of a building's construction: the extraction of resources, the processing of resources into building materials, the transportation of materials to distribution centers and the site, and the energy required to power the assembly of buildings. This means that before a building is even used, it has already negatively contributed to our environment. I began exploring the relationship between embodied carbon and renovation practices. When we demolish, acquire new materials, and assemble them, we continue to add to a building's embodied carbon.As a renovation process, my thesis must offset embodied carbon rather than contribute to it further.2. Construction & Demolition WasteWhen we renovate homes, waste is generated on three fronts: the first is in the demolition of the existing (redoing finishes, removing walls, replacing cabinetry), the second is in our subtractive construction process (off-cuts from wood products that are too small to use elsewhere, holes cut out of drywall to fit around outlets and lights, sawdust), and the third is the packaging of the materials we use to renovate with (tile boxes, paint cans, plastic-wrapped packs of painter's tape)My thesis must rethink our materials' lifecycle so that waste is avoided in the renovation process.3. Lifestyle wasteSuburban homes typically have curbside waste disposal programs. Every week large bins of garbage, recycling, and compost are taken away from the dweller's home. A couple of years ago in Mississauga, where I grew up, the city changed its curbside disposal program: it supplied every house with new "garbage carts" that can carry anywhere between 1-5 bags of garbage or recycling so they can alternate collection weeks. This infrastructure choice enables the waste generation and promotes a linear material economy. If you audited your household waste, you'd find "unavoidable" single-use plastics (the bag your pre-washed salad mix comes in, the plastic liner of your takeaway coffee cup, the styrofoam and cling-wrap keeping your fish and meats sanitary, the empty tube of toothpaste, or the plastic toothbrush you're supposed to replace every three months). There are zero-waste alternatives to most of our familiar sources of household plastic. However, they aren't conveniently available; you need to spend extra effort and time searching for living zero waste. In our fast-paced, consumerist society, we aren't left with much choice but to opt for single-use convenience.As a result of education and infrastructure changes, and with a priority to self-manage home waste, my thesis will gradually shift a dwellers' perception of waste to make waste-free living more accessible.
“We must redefine our perception of waste.”