Bringing and keeping construction materials in circulation

Scheme for bringing and keeping materials in circulation

Bringing and keeping construction materials in circulation

In a circular economy, one seeks to maximise value retention by bringing and keeping products, materials, raw materials (preferably in that order) in circulation. Specifically, for the construction sector, this means that when buildings are demolished, the aim is to preserve, reuse or recycle extracted materials as much as possible, and that, when constructing new buildings or renovations, one tries to integrate recovered materials. In this way, the built environment is seen as a mine that can be "mined" again and again (hence the much-used term "urban mining").

Today, the residual value of buildings is considered negative because we have to pay for their demolition. However, in the case of a transition to circular construction, the building elements present can be considered valuable, according to their potential for dismantling, remanufacturing, reuse or recycling. But keeping building materials in circulation also means maximising the lifespan of buildings through proper maintenance and attention to waste during the construction phase.

"At the Emergis Living Lab, they managed to work with reclaimed boards for the façade."

Living Lab Emergis foto van gevelbekleding
bestaande gebouwen valoriseren

Valorising the existing situation

In order to consider waste as raw materials and the built-up environment as a potential source of materials, a change of approach is needed within the construction and demolition sector. When considering the demolition of a building, enough time, space and workforce must be provided to selectively disassemble the building components and materials. In addition, you need to first make an inventory of the elements and materials to be disassembled.

kringloopmaterialen hergebruiken

Integrating recycled and reclaimed materials

Material cycles can only be successfully closed if people are prepared to also reintegrate recycled materials into (new) construction projects. This can mean reusing them in their original form for the same purpose, but materials can also be refurbished or completely remanufactured so that they again meet the quality level of a new product.

To make the integration of reclaimed materials easier in the future, it is therefore important that we make the necessary preparations today. Recording and managing the information about a building and its materials in a building passport is a strategy to facilitate future reuse. 

afvalbeheer en onderhoud

Waste management and maintenance

Extra efforts to bring and keep materials in circulation can be made during two specific life cycle phases of the building: the construction phase and the use phase.

  • During the construction phase, you can take waste management measures on site.
  • During the use phase it is important to maintain the building and its components correctly. This is the only way to guarantee sufficient quality for the materials to be reused.