House demolition is also a business
Archiving existing building materials, providing building material rental services, recycling waste building materials to create new buildings… People are gradually realizing that construction waste is a valuable asset rather than a burden that needs to be disposed of with money.
For a long time, cranes and bulldozers have been great symbols of urbanization, and the dust and rubble after blasting are even more feats that politicians like to highlight. In the UK, construction projects account for as much as 60% of materials consumed, 33% of waste generated, and 45% of carbon dioxide emissions. It can be said that the construction industry is like a monster that is greedy, profligate and pollutes the environment. While consuming a lot of resources, it also produces residues that cannot be digested by the earth. Therefore, it is imperative to reform the construction industry if we want to avoid the climate disaster caused by environmental pollution. However, bringing about change will take more than just adding solar panels or biomass boilers. It will require a new attitude towards existing building materials.
| Holland’s “Material Passport”|
For Dutch architect Thomas Lau, architecture is a “material warehouse”. He established an online archive to document the materials and reuse value of existing buildings, and has marked more than 2.5 million square meters of building materials. At the same time, he worked with the Amsterdam government to document the materials of all public buildings in the city. “Construction waste is just raw materials that have not been archived.” Lao said, “If we track the source and performance of each piece of building material and mark it well, we can effectively avoid waste.”
For this reason, Lao proposed the concept of “material passport”, that is, Record the specific characteristics and use value of building materials to facilitate recovery, recycling and reuse. His architectural practice designed the new headquarters for Tridos Bank and implemented this sustainable concept in the construction process. The new headquarters is a fully demountable office building. The building is a wooden structure with mechanical fixtures to ensure that each component can be reused. Moreover, all building materials are marked and easy to disassemble.
In order to achieve the goal of a circular economy, the Dutch government offers tax incentives for construction projects that register “material passports” and plans to make “material passports” a mandatory requirement for new buildings. With the rise of building information modeling technology, the construction industry has gradually entered the digital age. In the future, the “material passport” will only be a layer of data that can be easily integrated and tracked throughout the life cycle of a building.
In Lowe’s view, each component of a future building should be considered a material that is temporarily rented rather than permanently owned. From façades to light bulbs, manufacturers lease components, make sure they perform well and maintain them regularly, and take care of end-of-life materials. “Ownership hinders innovation,” said Law. “Once building component leasing becomes a service, developers don’t have to think about scrapping.”
For now, Law has persuaded Philips to sell “lighting” as a service, so As a result, the service life of the new lamps will be extended by 75%, and energy consumption will be reduced by 50%. As soon as the news broke, elevator companies, toilet manufacturers and façade manufacturers followed suit.
| Denmark’s “Green Recycling Initiative” |
In his just-completed apartment project, Danish architect Anders Lendag recycles waste building materials from the Carlsberg brewery, reducing the carbon footprint of new buildings by 50% to 60% . Normally, the bricks used to build a winery are difficult to reuse because the cement mortar has already locked them together. However, Lendage’s team still came up with a clever trick: use a cutting machine to cut the walls of the old winery into large squares of one square meter, and reassemble them to form a unique collage exterior wall for the new apartment. In addition, the team also recycled the old windows and transformed them into a shared greenhouse roof for residents. The “Green Regeneration Plan” is popular with local residents, and apartments here are significantly easier to rent than apartments in other neighborhoods.
Lundage’s team also undertook another project, Upcycling Studios, which reduced the building’s carbon footprint by nearly 70%. This is a high-end row house for both commercial and residential use. It is constructed of recycled concrete, reclaimed oak flooring and recycled waste aluminum. Two waste double-glazed panels form new thermal insulation windows. In the past, discarded concrete blocks were either landfilled or crushed to make roads, but this project successfully demonstrated that construction waste can still be used to create high-quality new concrete, reducing the consumption of raw materials by nearly half.
Most contractors are reluctant to invest too much effort in demolishing buildings to ensure the second use of materials, or building new buildings from second-hand materials without warranties. The Lendage team is different. They do everything by themselves. They not only organize the demolition construction team, but also conduct performance tests on the recycled building components and bear the corresponding risks of secondary use.
| Business Opportunities for Demolition of Houses|
From the detailed dismantling of post-war office buildings by the Belgian Rutter Spinoff Company to the exemplary renovation of Lacaton-Vassard Architects in France, many European construction companies are actively exploring the cycle of building materials use. However, it will take more than a few progressive-minded architects to revolutionize the construction industry. The government must formulate practical economic incentive policies before it is possible to turn the recycling of building materials from a concept into a reality.
”There’s no point in moral arguments,” says Law, “and you can’t make any assumptions out of economics.” According to cost accounting, when the building expires, the residual value that can be recovered is about 18% of the original cost. The 18% value is certainly an added bonus for the spinoff company, which typically pays for construction waste rather than benefiting from it. “People should realize that construction waste is a valuable asset, not a liability that costs money to dispose of,” Law said.
In Amsterdam alone, a study found that 2.6 million tons of building materials a year from renovations and demolition could Generate a value of up to 688 million euros. In the eyes of ABN AMRO, this is definitely a business opportunity not to be missed. The bank invested in the construction of a “recycling pavilion” in Amsterdam, which is specially used to demonstrate the reuse value of raw materials. “We are not just a financial institution, but a bank of raw materials,” said an executive at the opening of the pavilion. In an era of increasingly scarce resources, windows, beams and slates will surely become important assets in the future.
| Circular Economy Trials in the UK|
Seeing that countries on the European continent regard existing buildings as potential “mines”, Britain on the other side of the strait can no longer sit still. British architect Duncan Baker-Brown said that “reuse” has changed from a niche pursuit in the past to a hot spot of high-level government attention. “Following the pace of environmental protection organizations, the architectural circle has also awakened.” He said, “Although the legislative level has not kept up, most local governments have already started to solve the problem of sustainable development.” He and Brighton-Hof City Cooperate with China to implement the circular concept in the local building materials procurement process. He also plans to hold a summer construction workshop on how to recycle construction waste.
Under the London Development Plan, future applications for new buildings must include a circular economy statement explaining how building components are dismantled and reused. This is undoubtedly an encouraging sign. In addition, “The Architect” magazine also called on the industry to prioritize the renovation of existing buildings rather than demolition and reconstruction.
The award-winning works of architecture also reflect the shift in people’s way of thinking. In 2019, the “Building of the Year” award was awarded to the project to convert an old train factory in the Netherlands into a public library. At the same time, two consecutive “Mies van der Rohe Awards” were awarded to renovation projects in old post-war residential areas: Kleinberg apartment renovation project in the Netherlands and 530 apartment renovation project in France. Both are innovative examples of achieving maximum impact with minimal intervention. Lacaton-Vassar Architects, which participated in the 530 apartment project, called on every city to “never demolish, clear, replace, always renovate, renovate, and reuse” in the future.