Integrating recycled and reclaimed materials

Recuperatie dakpannen voor hergebruik

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.



Meaning and importance

When the materials are ready for reuse, they must be able to be applied to the market. In other words, people must be able to procure, supply and render them. Although the procuring of reused materials is still in its infancy, certain clients are already procuring their use via specifications and selection criteria from the project designers. However, unlike new products, reused materials usually do not come with a performance guarantee. This is often seen as a barrier and means that people in the construction industry (architects, contractors and clients) have to take responsibility for it themselves.

Whether a recycled material is suitable for use in a project depends on economic, technical and practical criteria.

  • Economic: what is the cost price compared to comparable new materials?
  • Technical: is the material free from contamination? Does it have the right mechanical properties? What is the fixing method?
  • Practical: is there enough of the material? Is it available at the right time?

To take all these elements into account and to streamline the integration of recycled materials into construction projects, you might want to involve an expert (= material scout). 

logo tool circulair gebouwd

How was this included in the Circular Built tool?

In recent years, the BBRI has built up expertise in the selective demolition and reuse of construction materials through projects such as BBSM (La Bato Bruxellois source de nouveau materiaux), FCRBE (Facilitating the circulation of reclaimed building elements in Northwestern Europe), Proeftuin Circulair Bouwen, Digital Deconstruction en Protocole de déconstruction pour la Région de Bruxelles-capitale. Based on these practical experiences and insights, in the tool we have listed the main options for integrating recycled materials into (new) construction projects.

In addition, the tool allows you to quantitatively specify your ambitions relating to the integration of recycled materials. You can use a table to summarise the proposed origin of materials used in the project. This can range from stored on site, reclaimed elsewhere, recycled directly on site or with a proportion of recycled content to traditionally based on linear economy principles.


How can you measure this?

Based on a bill of materials (BoM) or materials overview, you can make an estimate of the quantities of material required for the construction project, indicating the possible origin of the material: on site, reclaimed elsewhere, recycled directly on site, with a proportion of recycled content, or traditionally based on linear economy principles. Some key points here:

  • In the initial design it is important to take into account the possible application of reclaimed materials and the consequences of this on the design.
  • Usually, detailed material descriptions are prepared to evaluate the suitability of the recycled materials. It is important here to allow enough freedom and to focus on functional suitability.
  • The unit for expressing this has an important influence on the presentation of the results. For example, choosing tonnages will mean that light materials (such as insulation and wood) will weigh little compared to stone-like materials (such as brick or concrete). In some cases you might therefore want to measure in m³ or another unit (primary cost price, environmental cost, CO2 equivalent, etc.).

Real-life examples

De binnenkant van het voorbeeldproject - Living Lab van KULeuven
Living Lab Emergis de ingang

Which tools can help us here?