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Material efficiency

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Building construction often is resource-intensive.

Material efficiency is a description or metric ((Mp) (the ratio of material used to the supplied material)) which refers to decreasing the amount of a particular material needed to produce a specific product.[1] Making a usable item out of thinner stock than a prior version increases the material efficiency of the manufacturing process. Material efficiency is associated with Green building and Energy conservation, as well as other ways of incorporating Renewable resources in the building process from start to finish.

The impacts can include material efficiency include reducing energy demand, reducing Greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental impacts such as land use, water scarcity, air pollution, water pollution, and waste management.[2] A growing population with increasing wealth can increase demand for material extraction, and therefore processing may double in the next 40 years.[3]

Increasing Material efficiency can reduce the impacts of material consumption.[4] Some forms of Material Efficiency include increasing the life of existing products, using them more in entirety, re-using components to avoid waste, or reducing the amount of material through a lightweight product design.[3]


Minimizing waste is a factor in material resource efficiency.

Material efficiency in manufacturing refers to Increasing the efficiency of raw materials to manufactured product, generating less waste per product, and improving waste management.[5] Using building materials such as steel, reinforced concrete, and aluminum release CO2 during production.[6] In 2015, materials manufacturing for building construction were responsible for 11% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.[7] The largest market for aluminum is the transportation sector, smaller applications of aluminum include building, construction, and packaging.[8]

The potential in manufacturing can also refer to improving waste segregation (e.g., separating plastics from combustibles). Recycling and reusing components allow for remanufacturing during the process improvement in creating the product, increasing the material's durability, technology development, and correct component/material purchasing.[9]

Material efficiency can contribute to a circular economy and capturing value in the industry.[10] Some companies have applied the circular economy theory to design strategies and business models to close material loops.[11]

Building process[edit]

Since 1971, global steel demand has increased by three times, cement by slightly under seven times, primary aluminum by almost six times, and plastics by over ten times.[12] Significant materials, such as iron and steel, aluminum, cement, chemical products, and pulp and paper, impact the building process. However, employing more efficient strategies to produce these materials will reduce energy and cost without ignoring the reduction of carbon emissions.[13]

One process is using recycled steel saves room in landfills that the steel would otherwise occupy, saves 75% of the energy required to produce steel in the production process, and saves trees from being cut down to build structures. The recycled steel can be fashioned in the exact dimensions needed for the building and can be made into "customized steel beams and panels to fit each specific design."[14]


During the manufacturing process, each stage can increase material efficiency, from design and fabrication, through use, and finally to the end of life.[12]

Some strategies are:

  • Reduction: Strategies that may reduce the use of material while providing the same effect. Designing for durability could also result in a resilient material.[1] Modular design can facilitate material efficiency by reusing components and minimizing components needed in the production process.[15]
  • Durability: Extending product life through redesign or repair. More intensive use and extending products or buildings' lifetimes through repair and refurbishment can reduce the need for materials to produce new products.[1]
  • Lightweight products: The reduction of material used for service; Some examples are: Universal beams, food cans, reinforcing bars, and commercial steel-framed buildings.[1]
  • Reuse: The primary purpose is to re-use components for remanufacturing/refurbishing.[1] Reusing current materials uses even less energy than recycling.


Recycling can allow for lower-emission second purposes to new materials like steel, aluminum, and other metals.[12] Incorporating recycled materials into the manufacturing process of new goods is a necessary change. Recycling is standard for most materials and is found in every country and economy.[1] Some materials that can be recycled are:

Compressed aluminum-cans for recycling.

Aluminum cans from recycled material requiring as little as 4% of the energy needed to make the same cans from bauxite ore. Metals don't degrade as they're recycled in the same way plastics and paper do, fibers shortening every cycle, so many metals are prime candidates for recycling, especially considering their value per ton compared to other recyclables.[16] Aluminum is a highly desirable metal for recycling because it retains the same properties and quality, no matter how many times the aluminum can be recycled. After all, once it's melted, the structure doesn't change.[8]

  • Plastics

Approximately 36% of all plastic produced is used to create packaging, 85% of which ends up in landfills.[17] Plastic waste is a mixture of different types of plastics.[18] Plastic recycling has several challenges. Plastic cannot be recycled several times without quickly degrading in quality; The total bottle recycling rate for 2020 was 27.2%, down from 28.7% in 2019. Every hour, 2.5 million plastic bottles are thrown away in the U.S. Currently, around 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are in our oceans, without considering microplastics.[17]

  • Paper

Paper (particularly newspaper) have lower energy savings than other materials, with recycled products costing 45% and 21% less energy, respectively. Recycled paper has a large market in China. However, work still needs to be done to facilitate mixed paper recycling instead of newspaper.[16] Utilizing these recycling methods would permit spending less energy and resources on extracting new resources to use in manufacturing. Despite significant progress in recycling over the last decades, the paper sector is a substantial contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.[19] The pulp and paper industries produce 50% of their energy from biomass, which still requires vast energy.[8]


Public policies help to discuss and provide a market incentive for more efficient use of materials. Impediments to material efficiency improvement include hesitation to invest, a lack of available and accessible information, and economic disincentives.[20] However, a wide range of policy strategies and innovations have been created in some countries to achieve the mentioned goals.[20] These include regulation and guidelines; economic incentives; voluntary agreements and actions; information, education, and training; and funding for research, development, and demonstration.[21]

In 2022, the United States released the "The Critical Material Innovation, Efficiency, And Alternatives" program. It will be to study, develop, demonstrate, and trade with the primary goal of creating new alternatives to critical material, promoting efficient manufacturing and use.[22] In addition, The U.S. Department of Energy released a new "Energy Efficiency Materials Pilot Program for Nonprofits" program to provide nonprofit organizations with funding to upgrade building materials to improve energy efficiency, lower utility costs, and reduce carbon emissions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Worrell, Ernst; Allwood, Julian; Gutowski, Timothy (2016-11-01). "The Role of Material Efficiency in Environmental Stewardship". Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 41 (1): 575–598. doi:10.1146/annurev-environ-110615-085737. ISSN 1543-5938.
  2. ^ Allwood, Julian M.; Ashby, Michael F.; Gutowski, Timothy G.; Worrell, Ernst (2011-01-01). "Material efficiency: A white paper". Resources, Conservation, and Recycling. 55 (3): 362–381. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2010.11.002. ISSN 0921-3449.
  3. ^ a b Allwood, Julian M.; Ashby, Michael F.; Gutowski, Timothy G.; Worrell, Ernst (2013-03-13). "Material efficiency: providing material services with less material production". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 371 (1986): 20120496. Bibcode:2013RSPTA.37120496A. doi:10.1098/rsta.2012.0496. PMC 3575569. PMID 23359746.
  4. ^ Lifset, Reid; Eckelman, Matthew (2013-03-13). "Material efficiency in a multi-material world". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 371 (1986): 20120002. Bibcode:2013RSPTA.37120002L. doi:10.1098/rsta.2012.0002. PMID 23359743. S2CID 6072153.
  5. ^ Shahbazi, Sasha (2018). Sustainable Manufacturing through Material Efficiency Management (PhD dissertation). Mälardalen University.
  6. ^ Öztaş, Saniye Karaman (2015). "Sustainable Manufacturing Processes of Building Materials: Energy Efficiency". Applied Mechanics and Materials. 789–790: 1145–1149. doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.789-790.1145. ISSN 1662-7482. S2CID 112786900.
  7. ^ Orr, John; Drewniok, Michał P.; Walker, Ian; Ibell, Tim; Copping, Alexander; Emmitt, Stephen (2019-01-01). "Minimising energy in construction: Practitioners' views on material efficiency". Resources, Conservation, and Recycling. 140: 125–136. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2018.09.015. ISSN 0921-3449. S2CID 115514523.
  8. ^ a b c OECD (2015-02-12). "The material basis of the global economy". Material Resources, Productivity and the Environment. OECD Green Growth Studies. pp. 61–68. doi:10.1787/9789264190504-8-en. ISBN 9789264190498.
  9. ^ Shahbazi, Sasha; Wiktorsson, Magnus; Kurdve, Martin; Jönsson, Christina; Bjelkemyr, Marcus (2016). "Material efficiency in manufacturing: Swedish evidence on potential, barriers, and strategies". Journal of Cleaner Production. 127: 438–450. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.03.143. Retrieved 31 Aug 2021.
  10. ^ Pauliuk, Stefan; Heeren, Niko (2021). "Material efficiency and its contribution to climate change mitigation in Germany: A deep decarbonization scenario analysis until 2060". Journal of Industrial Ecology. 25 (2): 479–493. doi:10.1111/jiec.13091. ISSN 1088-1980. S2CID 234421904.
  11. ^ Brändström, Johan; Eriksson, Ola (2022-03-15). "How circular is a value chain? Proposing a Material Efficiency Metric to evaluate business models". Journal of Cleaner Production. 342: 130973. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2022.130973. ISSN 0959-6526. S2CID 246909298.
  12. ^ a b c "Material efficiency in clean energy transitions – Analysis". IEA. Retrieved 2022-12-15.
  13. ^ Hertwich, Edgar G; Ali, Saleem; Ciacci, Luca; Fishman, Tomer; Heeren, Niko; Masanet, Eric; Asghari, Farnaz Nojavan; Olivetti, Elsa; Pauliuk, Stefan; Tu, Qingshi; Wolfram, Paul (2019-04-16). "Material efficiency strategies to reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with buildings, vehicles, and electronics—a review". Environmental Research Letters. 14 (4): 043004. Bibcode:2019ERL....14d3004H. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ab0fe3. ISSN 1748-9326. S2CID 159348076.
  14. ^ Raney, Rebecca Fairly (8 February 2011). "10 Cutting-edge, Energy-efficient Building Materials". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  15. ^ Ji, Yangjian; Jiao, Roger J.; Chen, Liang; Wu, Chunlong (2013-02-01). "Green modular design for material efficiency: a leader–follower joint optimization model". Journal of Cleaner Production. 41: 187–201. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.09.022. ISSN 0959-6526.
  16. ^ a b "The Costs of Recycling". large.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2022-12-15.
  17. ^ a b "Top 25 recycling facts and statistics for 2022". World Economic Forum. 22 June 2022. Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  18. ^ Lim, Jonghun; Ahn, Yuchan; Cho, Hyungtae; Kim, Junghwan (2022-09-01). "Optimal strategy to sort plastic waste considering economic feasibility to increase recycling efficiency". Process Safety and Environmental Protection. 165: 420–430. doi:10.1016/j.psep.2022.07.022. ISSN 0957-5820. S2CID 250475041.
  19. ^ Van Ewijk, Stijn; Stegemann, Julia A.; Ekins, Paul (August 2018). "Global Life Cycle Paper Flows, Recycling Metrics, and Material Efficiency: Global Paper Flows, Recycling, Material Efficiency". Journal of Industrial Ecology. 22 (4): 686–693. doi:10.1111/jiec.12613. S2CID 38565989.
  20. ^ a b Söderholm, Patrik; Tilton, John E. (2012-04-01). "Material efficiency: An economic perspective". Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 61: 75–82. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2012.01.003. ISSN 0921-3449.
  21. ^ Worrell, Ernst; Levine, Mark; Price, Lynn; Martin, Nathan; van den Broek, Richard; Block, Kornelis (1997). "Potentials and policy implications of energy and material efficiency improvement". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "Critical Material Innovation, Efficiency, And Alternatives". Energy.gov. Retrieved 2022-12-16.