Can high-quality reuse and recycling of building materials make construction more efficient (and again cheaper)?

In recent weeks and months there have been few positive sounds from the construction sector. Material prices have been rising for some time and the war in Ukraine has exacerbated this trend. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are major exporters of timber and steel under normal circumstances. In addition, many factories in Europe are voluntarily scaling back their production because of high gas and electricity prices, and raw materials or by-products for the production process largely come from the current war zone. This puts the sector's profitability under severe pressure. 

At the same time, there are many buildings that are at the end of their life cycle. Can we recover the materials from which they are built and thus at least partly compensate for the scarcity? In any case, the Interreg Digital Deconstruction project hopes to develop a number of tools that should considerably facilitate this process. 

Within the project, knowledge is being developed to pave the way for a higher level of digitization and more circularity in the demolition sector. After all, construction and demolition waste accounts for about a third of all waste produced in the EU. Nearly 50% of this is currently recycled in most EU countries, but unfortunately as a low-value application. In the Northwest European countries, the percentage of reuse and high-quality recycling of waste remains below 1%. 

The goal of Digital Deconstruction is to create and deploy advanced digital solutions that promote high-quality reuse and recycling of building materials through: 

  1. A Digital Deconstruction platform that integrates a set of digital tools (3D scan, BIM, database, Blockchain technology); 
  2. A network of regional innovation hubs, in which digital tools for reuse and recycling are rolled out; 
  3. Pilot projects in the different regions to test and demonstrate the tools in different contexts and types of buildings 

“It is still a bit early to expect miracles from the project in the very short term. Still, expectations are high,” says Harald van Hooren, lead partner of the project. “The goal of Digital Deconstruction is to look at existing buildings with different eyes that have reached the end of their life cycle. Thanks to a good analysis and adapted demolition techniques, we can recover a lot of materials better and reuse them in a high-quality way. It should also lead to a different mindset in design where maximum reuse becomes a crucial starting point.” 


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