Closing the loop on waste by reimagining how we build our homes

Fletcher Building demonstrated industry leadership at XLabs by tackling the challenge of MDF waste streams.

They’re reimagining how we build and care for our homes by repositioning ‘building interiors as a service’. By using a framework of closed loop systems they can ensure products like MDF can become a reusable, valuable commodity that benefits customers and the environment.

CBD methods:
Closed loop systems
Smart materials
Circular business model
Industry:
Building / construction
Impact:
Societal benefits
Wasted resources
Economic benefits


The Team:
Ashley Woolf,  Ferran de Miguel Mercader,
Grant Boniface, Jason Roberts, Lauren Smith,
Lily Jones, Michael Burgess, Nicola Macpherson


The Challenge ­–

The origins of Fletcher Building date back to about a hundred years ago with a wooden villa built by James Fletcher that still stands in Dunedin. Today at Fletcher Building, they manufacture building products and distribute through their retail businesses along side other products that allow them to build homes, buildings, and infrastructure that create our communities.

Fletcher Building is now one of the leaders in manufactured building products. From the insulation in our walls that keeps us warm, to the foundations of the buildings we live and work in, through to the interiors of our kitchens, offices and shared spaces. The Fletcher Building brought a team drawn from multiple parts of their business. At XLabs they explored what the next 100 years might look like – and what their role as industry leaders could be.

The challenge they wanted to solve is below the surface. It’s at the core of many objects and interiors, at the core of our table tops, our kitchen cabinets and our office desks. This core is MDF – medium-density fibreboard that is effectively wood fibres glued together to form a board. They found out that 90% of MDF used, ends up in landfill. In talking to their fabricators to understand where this comes from, one mentioned that they were generating  ½ tonne of MDF each day. Another fabricator said that 9 out of 10 of their kitchen projects are renovations, customer desire to renew their space leading to the old kitchens potentially going straight to landfill. 

The challenge Fletcher Building tackled at XLabs was -
How might we solve the reuse, recycling and remanufacturing of wood products in residential construction for the NZ environment?

The Journey ­–

" XLabs gave us the opportunity to…..explore different circular economy principles, work together as a cross functional business team, but also connect with other players...in different industries, allowing us to expand our perspective on what can be done". Fletcher Building XLabs team.
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The Solution ­–

The solution they developed at XLabs, is a circular framework with a range of viable pathways to close the loop on MDF waste collaboratively across their supply chain –

- By using smart materials and technologies, we could make MDF from renewable, natural alternatives. 
- By networking participation with third parties, the MDF offcuts and discards could be reused.
- By recovering the core materials ourselves, we could remanufacture MDF into new products.
- Another solution would be to turn these MDF waste streams into something completely new, like a fibre insulation product.

The Ambition ­–

“Ultimately, our ambition is to help lead the shift to a world where we can reduce our overall impact, by offering consumers building interiors as a service, not a product - so our homes never grow old. In this world, every material and product has a meaningful purpose and is continually maintained, customised, and updated to increase its useful life.” Fletcher Building XLabs team.