An analytical framework of “zero waste construction site”: Two case studies of Shenzhen, China

Weisheng Lu, Zhikang Bao*, Wendy M. W. Lee, Bin Chi, Jiayuan Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Around the global construction industry, there is an emerging trend to pursue a “zero-waste” goal at the site level, but little is known about it. This paper aims to shed insights on the waste management concept of “zero waste construction site” by delineating its meaning, system boundary, assessment period, and operation strategies, which are further formulated in an analytical framework. Owing to the nascent nature of the concept, we adopted a qualitative approach including archival study, a series of semi-structured interviews, and two in-depth case studies in Shenzhen, China to sketch the analytical framework. Meanwhile, an analogy between “zero waste construction site” and “net zero building” is continuously made to fine-tune and finalize the framework. This research demonstrates that the zero-waste goal is challenging but achievable on individual construction sites. The system boundary to examine the zero-waste goal is contingent on the project scope, be it a new construction, renovation, or demolition project. The assessment period is dependent on the duration of the construction project. However, it would be too costly, if not entirely impossible, to achieve a “zero waste construction site” by treating it as a closed system. Rather, one needs to consider open, off-site strategies, e.g., engaging third-party recycling services, reusing recycled materials in subsequent projects, or trading it in to a recycled material market. The analytical framework can be utilized to scrutinize existing construction waste management practices. In the long term, the research will contribute positively to a “zero waste” society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-353
Number of pages11
JournalWaste Management
Early online date6 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • Construction and demolition waste
  • Construction waste management
  • Net zero building
  • Zero waste site

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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