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Brussels’ Buildings: Source of future Materials
Bâti Bruxellois: Source de nouveaux Matériaux

The ongoing transition towards a circular economy requires that materials that reach their functional, economic or technical end-of-life are reused in a continuous way. Applying this to the construction sector, existing buildings become the source of future construction materials.

Scope

Proceeding from this reality, the research project Bâti Bruxellois: Source de nouveaux Matériaux (or in English, Brussels’ Buildings: Source of future Materials) wants to foster the necessary transition towards a circular economy in the Capital Region of Brussels. To reinforce current reuse practices and prepare the construction sector for the vast amount of materials that will be released during the refurbishment of Brussels’ building stock the next decennia, four research partners and various stakeholders bring together their particular expertise and experience.

Partners and objectives

During this project the opportunities offered by various reuse options and other closed loop paths, technical and legal aspects of reclaiming and reusing construction materials, as well as the effect of reuse on building design and vice versa are studied.

  • The research project is coordinated by the research group Architecture et Climat of the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL). They are responsible for the assessment of upcoming materials flows and reuse options, and study therefore the composition of Brussels’ building stock at an urban and material level and confront it subsequently with current (de)construction practice.
  • The design and research collective ROTOR invests its expertise in deconstruction and reuse to inspire the transition towards a circular construction practice. To understand our current make-use-waste practice, they review the reuse of construction materials since ancient times while envisioning how various environmental, cultural, economic and legal aspects of a circular building economy would look like.
  • The Belgian Building Research Institute (CSTC/WTCB) contributes to the project with a technical feasibility study. Departing from existing practices of reclaiming and reusing construction materials from different building types, they will advise practitioners, in particular of construction companies, about how they can optimise the deconstruction and further processing of building materials.
  • Our research group ARCH of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel will complete these findings and advices with a comprehensive publication discussing the effect of reusing building materials on design practice as well as the importance of design choices to preserve the potential of reusing building materials. Therefore, we will invest our expertise in the field of Design for Change and propose renewed design strategies.

To guarantee the correspondence of the developed insights, advices and strategies with the regional construction practice, four stakeholders are structurally involved in the project. First, about local policy on material and waste flows, Brussels Environment (IBGE/BIM) is consulted. Second, with respect to education and employment in Brussels’ construction sector, the project relies on the feedback of the non-profit organisation CDR Construction/BRC Bouw. Third, in relation to sustainable entrepreneurship, the Brussels cooperation Batigroupe (Carodec) will support this project. And finally, to guarantee the developed advices can be embedded in a socially inclusive economy, this project relies on the input of the non-profit organisation Petits Riens/Spullenhulp.

Funding

The research project Bâti Bruxellois: Source de nouveaux Matériaux is made possible thanks to the support of the European Regional Development Fund (EFRO/FEDER) in the framework of its 2014-2020 programme for the Capital Region of Brussels. In order to strengthen research and improve the transfer and the emergence of innovation (priority axis 1) the fund invests with this project in applied research related to the priority issue of resource use and waste (objective 1.1).

Planning

Early 2016 the project started with a bottom-up exploration to gain insight in the kind of materials that will be released during coming refurbishments as well as in their quantities. This is done through case studies and extrapolation. Simultaneously, the structure of the construction sector, including waste processing firms and resellers of second-hand materials is surveyed. And a historical analysis and future projections are developed to trigger, feed and support the discussion about the reuse of construction materials.

Since October 2016 the Architectural Engineering research group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is working on the project. With their expertise on Design for Change, Transformable Building and Life Cycle Analysis, Waldo Galle, Anne Paduart and Niels De Temmerman are currently reviewing existing design concepts, guidelines, legislation and exemplary cases. Because design choices play a crucial role in avoiding waste, our research group will study which choices lever materials’ current and future reuse, and will publish (a series of) guides for architectural practitioners and students.

As soon as possible, our research results will be announced through this project-page. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact Waldo, Anne and Niels if you want to be involved or need any information about this project.