The lack of harmonised standards and guarantees has hindered a large-scale reuse of building materials - until now. The recent EU approval of CE marking of reusable building materials is a breakthrough for the adoption of more circular economy principles in the building and construction industry.
CE marking turn green ambitions into reality
The amount of paper that has been used to print surveys and reports on how to improve and increase circular economy in the construction sector would probably be enough to insulate several house. But now there is a paper that can turn green ambitions into reality: a CE marking of old bricks, making them reusable in future construction work.
One of the most oft-cited challenges for the reuse of old building materials concerns the lack of information about the properties of the recycled materials.
-“That is a problem for the advisors, entrepreneurs and developers who accept responsibility for the reuse of the material“, explains Erik Krogh Lauritzen from Lauritzen Advising, who works with recycling in the construction sector. Among other projects, he assisted Copenhagen Municipality with a construction on Katrinedal’s School, which involved reused bricks that were sourced from a demolition at Bispebjerg Hospital.
-The biggest fear is that the materials are polluted. But even if that is guaranteed against it is still necessary to test the bricks to make sure that they have the same properties as new bricks. That is a challenge because most developers do not want reused bricks to be more expensive. Therefore they do not want to risk any trouble with the technical quality or pollution, he continues.
It is therefore easier to use CE marked materials because their source, production process and technical properties are indicated.
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Until now CE marking has only been used for new building materials due to the lack of harmonised standards for reusable materials. However, the EU Commission recently approved the Danish company Rebrick (Gamle Mursten)’s voluntary CE marking procedure, says director Claus Juul Nielsen:
-It means that old bricks can be classified on par with new bricks. Developers and entrepreneurs no longer need to be brave to choose reusable bricks because everything is the same as if you would have bought new materials.
The company has decided to have the same requirements for old bricks as for new bricks (DS/EN 771-1:2011+A1:2015). However, the bricks can only to be used in masonry where the requirements for compressive strength do not exceed 20 MPa.
EU approval is key
Rebrick already sells millions of bricks to many different construction projects, but Claus Juul Nielsen expects that the CE marking will result in an increase in demand.
-Currently we deliver not only to experimental construction projects, but also to mainstream industrial construction work such as Pension Denmark and Carlsberg. But the EU approval is the key that makes reuse more legitimate.
Even though Rebrick has the necessary testing process in place, they are not able to put CE labels on their bricks yet. The reason for this is that Dancert, which is the institute responsible for certifying Rebrick’s processes, has not yet been granted the accreditation to do so.
Project manager Sidse Zimmermann expects that Rebrick will be able to send their first shipment of CE certified reusable bricks during the first quarter of this year.
Claus Juul Nielsen foresees that other companies working with reuse of building materials will follow the same path.
-The procedure is publicly available so everyone is able to look at what we have created. In that sense, we are setting the standard for the market and for what others will have to deliver, he concludes.
-In 2015, the building and construction industry produced around 4.1 million tonnes of waste
-Bricks and tiles are estimated to account for 10-12% of this waste
-Currently around 300,000 tonnes of brick waste is crushed and used as roadfill
-A small amount is cleaned and reused. Rebrick has previously said that they reuse around 3 million bricks annually
-The Danish Technological Institute estimates that almost 60 million bricks could be reused annually provided that a method is developed to clean cement mortar of the bricks that are sourced from buildings constructed after 1955