Questions & Answers

Which materials are circular?

Today none of them, but in the future maybe all of them.

Circular materials means that the materials or the processing of materials avoid to generate waste and pollution, that the life cycle of the materials is extended and that the loops are closed (Cradle-to-Cradle approach) by reusing them, for instance. The value of the materials should be preserved. Only then the production of waste and the consumption of finite resources can be downsized and the impact on the environment can be minimised.

More practical examples:

A concrete element that stays in the building for 100 years is more circular than a wooden cladding of a façade that stays there for 10 years and is burned afterwards. Also, wood is often treated with paint or oil.

Still standing after 116 years: The Ingalls Building, built in 1903 in Cincinnati, Ohio, is the world's first reinforced concrete skyscraper. Of course, not only the materials make a building circular and one material is better compostable than another material and the production of it is cleaner, but one should be aware that there is no such thing as ‘circular materials’. A circular building or component depend on much more than the material itself. The materials are on itself not circular, but can be a part of a circular building process. So, the materials today are not used in a circular way, but in the future they can all be part of the circular building economy.

What can I do to get started today? What would be my role in the circular economy?

All actors

  • Show other partners what strategies you have tested and what the result was (even if it did not work out), economically and technically.

  • Start using developed tools (TOTEM, GRO, Design Principles, ...)

  • Start up a more collaborative process from the beginning to gain efficiency.

  • Step 1 is to keep the element or building in use for as long as possible, without changing it. The longer the cycle runs through, the more sustainable. (Refuse)

Architects/ Engineering firms

  • Include circular details that do not have a large influence on the design or on the finances (reversible connections, durable materials, second-hand products, pace-layering, prefabricated/ preassembled, ...).

Façade manufacturers

  • A façade is being maintained for 15-20 years, or longer. Try to push this towards a leasing model.

  • There are already service-maintenance contracts between the façade builder and the client, where inspection is done by professionals after a certain time. Take these contracts a step further by including take-back schemes for example.

  • Curtain walls have a large prefabrication rate because of its advantages. Try to make the step towards preassembly (prefabrication + reversible connections).

Demolition firms

  • To create roles that are linked to the decommissioning and deconstruction service, such as reverse logistics providers and suppliers of secondary materials.

  • Rremove materials with the aim of reusing them as much as possible. The value creatio comes in the form of sales.

  • Each demolition site should be scanned to assess the recycling potential of existing building materials. These materials should be dismantled and sold (directly or via a resale point).

  • Start with sorting C&D wastes on-site.

Policy makers

  • Require including the 'reuse' aspect in each specification in the form of an introduction or a prescription, or an obligation to give a description of the work with regard to reuse.

  • A legislative approach favouring design stage and a higher knowledge on effective waste management options

  • Promoting the analysis of cost and benefits of waste preventive measures.

  • To enhance reuse/recycling, a reduction of taxes on labor and an increase of taxes on the use of primary raw materials could contribute to increase the market for secondary materials from C&D waste.

  • The easing-out of subsidies that favour linear products, adopting policies that favour circular products, such as reduced tax for reparation.

  • Upcycling and reusing C&D waste should be promoted rather than recycling.

  • Extending the hard laws on energy performance and the policy instruments by integrating circular and dynamic building approaches.

Circularity principles can be implemented in a project, but many (burning) questions still need to be answered. That's why this Q&A section was launched. Questions on circularity in the building sector and the façade sector are answered here. This way, experts (intern or extern) and other stakeholders can provide you an answer.

Got a question? You can ask your question at the end of this page.

Do you have another question for us? Or did you expect another answer? Let us know!

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