UNCUT MATERIALS: WHY PROPORTIONS MATTER

Constructive Deconstruction briefly touches upon the practice of uncut materials and how its thinking cannot only promote effortless assembly, but also assist in addressing the global challenge of minimizing construction waste.

So, what is uncut materials?

Uncut materials is the practice of considering the building material proportions being utilized and working with their pre-existing dimensions – whether these dimensions are manufactured or given to us by the very nature of the material itself. From off-site production to onsite installation, the material does not get subjected to further cutting or modification than where it started in the factory.

A good example to explain the practice of uncut materials is the standardized sizes of common gypsum board for internal linings.

Gypsum board typically comes in a fixed width – 1200mm (3.9 ft) for instance – with a variety of different lengths and thicknesses for the designer or the builder to choose from. These pre-existing offerings in the gypsum board’s proportions can inform the overall dimensions of what spaces should be when creating a building design. This can lead to adaptations in the floor plan to suit where the boards can be employed to run vertically as intended or taken horizontally to leverage their length.

By considering the material in this manner, including its jointing methods and how it is typically detailed, we can start to achieve more efficient building methods in practice. This is the case even if the material – such as the example of gypsum board – has been designed with flexibility in mind to support cutting and alterations of the board to suit site-specific applications in the first place.

Common gypsum board for internal linings in buildings is a great example of where the method of uncut materials can help support more efficient building practices.

“…the practice of uncut materials not only exercises a sound understanding of the materials being specified, but also shows good judgement in considering those who will be handling and installing these same materials onsite.” – Constructive Deconstruction

Working with uncut materials and their proportions in this manner is showing respect to the materials before they are even employed. This can result in tangible benefits for construction projects of various scales and their contracting parties, such as:

  • Savings on time – due to a reduction in labour intensity from builders who do not need to alter the material in between the point of delivery to the point of installation;
  • Savings on money – due to less labour time being expended (as mentioned above) and because the spatial dimensions of the building have been designed with the material proportions in mind, minimizing the risk of inflated orders being made to material suppliers that only end up landing in the waste skip; and
  • A lower risk of poor workmanship – since materials remain uncompromised, simplifying the construction delivery process and lowering the risk of material degradation in the long-term through maintaining the material’s special manufactured seal.  

Furthermore, the practice of uncut materials not only exercises a sound understanding of the materials being specified, but also shows good judgement in considering those who will be handling and installing these same materials onsite. In other words, it is important during design development to understand how construction productivity can be improved, leading to greater project outcomes. After all, builders are the professionals that are contracted to take responsibility in transforming drawings into tangible and functional buildings – which is why uncut materials if applied correctly could be very useful.

“At the end of the day, we are all participants in the greater global challenge that the construction industry faces with sustainability, which is why material proportions and their application will always matter.” – Constructive Deconstruction

The practice of uncut materials sounds like common sense, but ‘common sense is not so common.’ EXACTLY….

And within this is the lesson – the lesson to employ more practices like uncut materials that are designed to help reduce construction waste. We must work alongside this grain; not against it.  

When employing the practice of uncut materials, images like this of construction waste can start to be minimized, if not completely eliminated.

With that being said, it is important to acknowledge here that not all materials can come uncut. This stands as one of the harsh realities of construction in general and needs to be considered case-by-case based upon the type of materials being engaged with. Nevertheless, where the possibility does exist, we owe the responsibility to not neglect this untapped potential. Rather, we must act upon it and become instigators.

At the end of the day, we are all participants in the greater global challenge that the construction industry faces with sustainability, which is why material proportions and their application will always matter.   

Please Note: when considering the thinking of uncut materials, it is good practice to refer to the manufacturer’s product literature and consult their technical representatives who are best placed in advising on more sustainable building practices with the application of their specific material offerings.

Written by Thomas Denhardt – Author and Creative Director of Constructive Deconstruction


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