CEresearchNRW: The EU Circular Economy Action Plan – circular construction?

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Julian Mast

The EU Circular Economy Action Plan - circular construction?

On 03.02 the CEresearchNRW team welcomed more than 60 participants to the web seminar “circular construction industry”.

This is the first product value chain we have looked at as part of our series of events on the EU Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP).

We were able to welcome speakers for four lectures from research and practice. Berfin Bayram (RWTH Aachen) presented the research college Verbund.NRW. Elias Schwemin (HFT Stuttgart) then told us about the development of a sustainable concept for housing in inner cities. Dr. Patrick Bergmann from Madaster GmbH then presented their digital tools, including the material database, which is a material (flow) register for buildings. At the end of the event, Zoé Koop (Ingenum GmbH/HRW) and Prof. Dr. Jens Watenphul (HRW) told us about their project to develop a material flow manager app for construction (raw) materials.

Berfin Bayram started with a short presentation of the Forschungskolleg Verbund.NRW. This is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary project that researches technical, ecological, social and economic methods and approaches in cooperation with industry partners in order to close anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) material chains in the construction industry. Bayram then highlighted the special role of the construction industry in the Circular Economy. Firstly, within the EU and Germany, this accounts for a very significant share of waste generation. On the other hand experience
Composite materials such as glass fiber-reinforced / carbon fiber-reinforced concrete are becoming more and more popular in applications, even though they are difficult to keep in cycles according to current scientific knowledge.
are and also their disposal at the end of life is associated with some problems. A fundamental question for Bayram’s research is also how to measure the recyclability of building materials.
Using selected environmental impact categories and cost allocations, it compares, within the framework of a life cycle assessment and a life cycle costing approach for different types of concrete paving, the
ecological and economic sense of concrete recycling. Bayram sees the combination of the criteria (1) ecology, (2) economy and (3) material quality for the evaluation of recycling concepts in the construction industry as the central role of your research for the future.

The team “coLLab” of the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences (HFT) around Elias Schwemin takes part in the university competition “Solar Decathlon Europe 2021”. The competition addresses challenges of living in inner cities and motivates the respective teams to develop solutions. The solutions are developed and evaluated in interdisciplinary teams in ten areas (such as architecture, sustainability or energy). In his presentation, Schwemin drew attention to the most significant problems facing the city of Stuttgart, which are heat accumulation, air pollution and housing shortage. The team’s approach to solving the problem consists of adding circular small-space apartments on top of existing buildings and renovating them. Schwemin explained that the development of the model relates to three guiding principles of sustainability or circularity: (1) sufficiency, (2)reuse, recycle or reuse, and (3) other materials. To achieve
Sufficiency contributes to the concept by, among other things, avoiding further land sealing, sharing common areas, and low-tech building energy concepts. To achieve the second guiding principle, the team’s planning calls for linking different components together using non-destructively detachable connections (such as bolts or hooks). Here, the elements should be made from renewable resources such as wood, where possible, to further promote sustainable construction. In conclusion, Schwemin’s evaluation of the approach showed that the model’s recycling potential is considerably higher than in the standard construction industry and that considerable portions of the construction can at least be recycled further. In this context, he drew attention to the importance of holistic
Consideration of the life cycle attentive. For example, supposedly cheaper “disposable materials” are not necessarily cheaper over their entire service life, as it is not possible, for example, to replace them with new ones. resell after use.

Dr. Patrick Bergmann from Madaster presented his company’s material cadastre in the third lecture. Using the example of the administrative headquarters of Triodos, a Dutch bank, he explained that high degrees of circularity are possible in the building sector. It is up to 95% in the case of the above-mentioned building. The idea of the material cadastre is motivated by the finite nature of the Earth’s resources and the idea that the economic system must make do with the available resources in the long term. The idea of the digital material cadastre is to record the materials used in buildings in a database and, in a similar form to the real estate cadastre, to show the resource commitment of buildings. The materials are sorted into categories such as. Glass, plastics, metal divided. Madaster is organized as a foundation and is represented in various European countries. Madaster works with product manufacturers, recyclers, funders and similar stakeholders in project development during the construction and deconstruction phases of real estate. The aim is to build an ecosystem, i.e. to bring together the largest possible network of partner companies across the entire value chain of the construction industry. Bergmann does not see buildings as mere real estate, built with raw materials and
The materials used in these projects do not have to be disposed of after use, but can be reused as a “raw material depot” for new construction projects at the end of their life cycle. In order to provide the most holistic assessment possible, the Material Cadastre has the following four tools: (1) Material Passport, (2) CO2 Calculator, (3) Circularity Index, and (4) Financial Assessment.

Finally, Prof. Jens Watenphul (Hochschule Ruhr West, HRW) and Zoé Koop (HRW & Ingenum GmbH Bottrop) presented the “DigiMin” project for the development of a material flow manager app for mineral
Raw materials before. The goal of this app is to create a dynamic network of different large construction sites in order to minimize the logistics effort of required materials. In this context, Watenphul emphasized several
Factors that strongly influence the environmental effort of material logistics, which should be significantly reduced with the help of the app. First of all, the construction industry is an industry that uses large quantities of raw materials.
machined and processed. The large construction sites mentioned as examples, such as dikes or road construction projects, require correspondingly millions of truckloads of crushed stone, gravel, sand and similar raw materials.
The operation of trucks in the course of transportation causes emissions that have a negative impact in many environmental impact categories. In addition to the effort caused by the transport, the very strong influence on the transport infrastructure must also be taken into account. Due to their high mass, trucks put much more strain on the roads they drive on than normal passenger cars, which therefore require more renovation. It can be concluded from this that the shortest possible transport distance between different large construction sites only offers advantages if they are interdependent in terms of material flows, i.e. one construction site can use the output product of another construction site as input. In the future, the app will display all major construction sites and map their material requirements and offerings in a manner similar to common online map applications such as Google Maps. If there is an overlap between demand and supply, the stakeholders of the affected construction sites are networked. Since the project only started recently, no test or full version of the app is available yet, but will
worked to ensure that the project is implemented as soon as possible due to its promise of success.

Thank you for your participation, we look forward to seeing you at the other dates in the CEAP series. 

On 03 March 2022, the next web seminar will take place at the usual time, which will take a closer look at the focus on textiles.