Reuse of construction materials for affordable high-quality homes
Research into budget-friendly renovation with re-use of materials
Domus Mundi vzw is a socially committed organisation with building-technical knowledge that wants to make qualitative and sustainable living, housing and (re)constructing possible for vulnerable groups. We mainly focus on renovation and urban renewal projects that improve the liveability and quality of life in a neighbourhood or city. This often involves combating housing shortages and energy poverty, adapting homes to current needs and eliminating health risks and unsafe situations.
In this project, we investigated to what extent the reuse of building materials, besides reducing the environmental impact of the building sector, can also contribute to our objective of increasing the affordable and qualitative supply of housing. Concretely, we first conducted a theoretical analysis followed by practical experiments to show which materials are technically and financially interesting for reuse applications. We discovered a number of obstacles that impede a more structural approach to the reuse of building materials. We also took a number of (modest) initiatives to overcome these bottlenecks.
Domus Mundi vzw
PartnersDomus Mundi vzw, BAST Architects & Engineers CVBA, Weerwerk vzw, Het Pandschap cvba-so
We identified several interesting building materials that we can reuse or renovate in a budget-friendly way: kitchens, radiators and sanitary ware such as washbasins, hand washers, bathtubs and toilets.
Based on the identified materials, we conducted several renovation experiments. The reuse of kitchens is currently the closest thing we have to a marketable business activity.
We have started to develop an ecosystem in which we bring together professional actors on the demand side and installers of recovery materials.
Although still on a small scale, we are making an ecological contribution by saving new raw materials and simultaneously reducing the waste mountain. But above all, we hope to contribute to a change in mentality regarding the throw-away society and overconsumption.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Another bottleneck is the reluctance of installers to work with recovered materials. Reasons are discounts on new materials, liability risks and the time-consuming nature of the search for materials. Building professionals, too, often find reuse platforms too time-consuming.
A separate entity that focuses on material search, screening and the logistic side would significantly promote the reuse of materials. This entity could then also work with an ecosystem of professional actors on the demand side and installers.
Efficient logistics are essential to make reuse a success story. In an ideal scenario, reusable materials can be transported directly from the place of disassembly to the new location, without storage in an intermediate station.
At the start of the project, both end users and contractors noticed a psychological barrier to the reuse of building materials. Throughout the experimentation phase, we were able to overcome this by presenting, among other things, successfully implemented projects.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
In a follow-up project, submitted to the targeted circular building call 2020 of Flanders Circular and financed by Vlaio, we are meanwhile continuing the renovation activities with the reuse of building materials (mainly focused on kitchens and sanitary facilities). We are trying to further expand the ecosystem of supply, demand and contractors. We are also going to place ourselves in the middle of the triangle of these involved parties, with the aim of facilitating the reuse of building materials.
In the meantime, we are also making efforts to set up a cooperative company based on 2 pillars that can reinforce each other: on the one hand, these renovation activities with recycled materials. On the other hand, a physical materials hub that will better coordinate supply and demand for these materials.
The two most important conditions for setting this up are finding a sufficiently large and financially feasible storage place for the materials and sufficient funding for the start-up. To bridge the period between start-up and break-even.