Irelands waste management performance suffers as a result of insufficient planning of future treatment capacity, an absence of waste prevention on the political agenda, insufficient use of economic and legal instruments, and inadequate municipal waste recycling. The generation of municipal waste peaked in Ireland in 2007 at 3 397 683 tonnes and has since decreasedslightly year on year. However, forecasts predict that the total amount of municipal waste generated in Ireland will increase by around 830 000 tonnes within the next 15 years. Landfill is still the main method of dealing with such waste, even though only about 11 years of capacity are estimated to remain. In 2009, 69% of recovered waste went abroad for reprocessing.
The main objectives of the WISER LIFE project were to reduce and reuse waste, divert it from landfill, create green jobs, reduce resource consumption, and improve access to innovative ecological education systems. It built upon the activities of coordinating beneficiary RDC, in demonstrating best practice in waste reuse and preparation for reuse, and associated beneficiaryDCC, which was set up by the Dublin City Council to develop and implement a plan for the physical, economic and social regeneration of Ballymun. The project aimed to create an innovative education centre to demonstrate excellence in reuse, supported by a cluster of resource-efficient enterprises, and complemented by environmental education, training and research programmes.
WISER LIFE delivered a new methodology for education in sustainable development. During an 18-month design period and 12 months of construction, the project team transformed the disused Boiler House in Ballymun, Dublin, into a novel 3D textbook and learning space for the reuse of waste, called the Rediscovery Centre (RDC). The building brings together small enterprises and acts as a focus for life-long learning programmes for schools, universities, corporate organisations and community groups. The project offers an exemplary best practice example for waste reuse in building construction and renovation.
The RDC opened to the public in early 2017. Its demonstration and innovation aspects are attracting many visitors and practitioners. The centre is helping to build capacity for the green sector in Ireland, and provides a living laboratory for the circular economy and collaborative research projects. As a result, opportunities are continually emerging with local and overseas universities and municipalities. An eco-cluster of resource-efficient social enterprises has been created and the social, economic and environmental benefits of this co-location have been realised. The eco-cluster includes small enterprises that share their expertise in courses, in areas such as fashion, furniture and bike maintenance skills.
Over 30 exhibitions at the Rediscovery Centre were developed and installed during the project to encourage interaction and active learning, a trail was established to take visitors on a tour of the building to highlight key points of interest, and the cafe is very popular with the local community. Over 60 targeted life-long learning programmes were developed to further strategic goals of national waste policy. During the lifetime of the project, over 30 000 people participated in RDC programmes. The demonstration value of this project is very high, and the RDC is supporting others who aspire to replicate the concept and methodology. Some recommendations from the reuse case study are the need to design buildings for deconstruction, to regard durable elements of the building structure as valuable local infrastructure, and to keep records of building materials to improve their reuse ability.
The project delivers transitional change and inspires new thinking with respect to circular economy solutions and thesupport of the UN global Sustainable Development Goals. It supports a range of EU policy, including the 7th Environmental Action Programme, the Waste Framework Directive and its amendment incorporating the Circular Economy package, the Resource Efficiency Roadmap, the Communication on Sustainable Consumption and Production, and the Europe 2020 Strategy.
The project team reported impressive environmental benefits due to the repurposing of the Boiler House. The buildings reconstruction reused approximately 17.5 t of main steel structure, 3.5 t of ancillary steel structure, 260 t of concrete slab structure, and reused 281 t of construction and demolition waste. The reuse of the existing structures resulted in an avoidance of approximately 55 t of embodied carbon, based purely on production impact. The energy consumption of the building was reduced by 40% compared to a 'do-nothing' scenario, and on-site electricity generation of 19% was achieved. The eco-cluster enterprises actively diverted valuable resources from landfill by repairing and reusing products and reintroducing them to the value cycle. The expected target of 22 t diversion rate per annum has not yet been met, but is likely to be achieved in the coming years (diversion rate of 15.7 t in 2017). The reconstruction of the Boiler House therefore demonstrated that building structures are adaptable and reusable, and that their environmental performance can be improved to a very high standard. This achievement was recognised through a National Green Construction Award in February 2017.
The project has created employment and promoted social inclusion in the Ballymun area. By housing all of RDC's operations in one energy-efficient building operating costs have been reduced, helping to secure the long-term viability of the non-profit social enterprises. The 3D textbook acts as both a hub for the community and as a destination to attract visitors to the area from across Greater Dublin, Ireland and the EU. This is a central part of the regeneration of Ballymun, helping to create a stronger sense of community around the theme of environmental sustainability and helping to reconnect one of the most deprived and isolated areas of Dublin to the wider world.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).