No circular construction without high-quality demolition monitoring


Data mining takes recycling and reuse to the next level

A Belgian newspaper published an extensive report on the recycling of construction and demolition waste, highlighting the fact that Flanders, along with the Netherlands and Austria, is a world leader in this field. According to estimates, only 1 to 2% of construction waste in Flanders escapes the recycling chain. Licensed demolition-management organisation Tracimat is also increasingly being called on for demolition work on large construction sites. Detailed demolition-monitoring plans list the various materials that will be released during demolition. They are a keystone of a fully-fledged circular construction economy. The Flemish government is also promoting circular construction in its recovery policy, providing substantial resources for innovative recycling techniques and asbestos removal, among other things, in both 2021 and 2022.

Leader in circular construction

In late January, Newspaper 'De Tijd' published a report on the importance of circular construction in Flanders. The report showed that virtually all of the region's construction and demolition waste is reused, with most of it going back into the construction industry. For example, almost all waste from the Oosterweel Link construction sites in Antwerp is recycled. Belgium now has thousands of professionals overseeing, on a daily basis, the recycling of aggregate alone. Aggregates account for around 16.4 million tonnes of waste per year, comprising mixed aggregate (concrete and brick, 35%), concrete aggregate (35%), screened sand (20%), masonry aggregate (2.5%) and asphalt aggregate (2.5%). Between 2 and 3% of these materials cannot be recycled, including asbestos, tar and hazardous substances. The traceability of these non-reusable substances is vital to ensuring the safe recycling and reuse of construction waste. Therein lies the advantage of demolition-monitoring plans, as these allow for careful and selective demolition.

ZIN-project in Brussels, an example of best practices in circular construction
ZIN-project in Brussels, an example of best practices in circular construction

Focus on high-quality demolition-monitoring plans

The Flemish government recently highlighted the importance of high-quality demolition-monitoring plans, especially on large construction sites. Including a suitable demolition-monitoring plan with tender documents enables selective demolition to take place while also helping to draw up accurate tenders and prevent foreseeable delays on site. Such plans also guarantee that the various material flows released during demolition can be monitored, thereby enhancing the removal and disposal of hazardous substances like asbestos. Stone rubble that is crushed into recycled aggregate can subsequently be used in higher-grade applications such as structural concrete, precast concrete elements or new bricks, for instance.

It is estimated that more than 50% of construction and demolition waste is generated by large demolition sites. By having specialist organisations monitor demolition, we are taking a huge step towards more exhaustive, selective demolition and the reuse and high-value recycling of materials within the construction sector,

concludes Marc Dillen, Director-General of the Flemish Construction Confederation (VCB).

'Data driven'

Flemish minister Zuhal Demir has freed up an extra €2.8 million this year to help the region speed up the circular construction transition. This money will fund 29 innovative projects intended to advance the shift to a circular construction economy. One of these projects, focusing on data-driven demolition and recycling, is being undertaken by demolition-management organisation Tracimat, alongside the Belgian Building Research Institute (BBRI), Deceuninck, Reynaers Aluminium, Wienerberger and Pittsburgh Corning Europe. Data mining can be used to investigate which material flows will be released in the future and identify potential synergies between the sorting, cleaning and processing centres responsible for different material flows. This can also facilitate take-back by producers. Demolition monitoring can therefore support the transition to circular business models within the construction sector. Meticulous records are already kept of materials from building or infrastructure sites involving demolition, forming the ideal springboard for accelerating urban mining. More information (in Dutch) is available here.