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RePanel

Denne idé er en del af The Circular Construction Challenge – Rethink Waste

Vandkunsten AM
Vandkunsten AM
8. oktober 2018

RePanel will be introduced in the market as a high-end product which can be used as an alternative to painted gypsum walls, veneer, laminated panel boards, and customized acoustic wall cladding.

The RePanel product line will offer modular solutions with highly profiled identities – patterns, surfaces, types of wood, colours, dimensions and documented acoustic properties. The added value from high design quality will counterbalance the fact that the products initially may be more costly than most well-established alternatives at the current market.

 

RePanel will be designed as a system including panels, mounting laths, fittings and plates. All components will comply the highest standards of Design for Disassembly

The system may be used as decorative and acoustic claddings for interiors and as part of interior re-insulation.

Wooden panels have been aesthetic and practical building components for centuries and RePanel will be a contemporary architectural element to add a tactile and cultural surface to new builds and renovations.

 

During the past 5 years we have executed a number of commissions on decorative walls made from repurposed wood. The assignments have been characterized by a high level of customization. We can increase the level of reuse as well as our business if we can offer a standardized product suite to offer a more stable market supply based on stock production, a steady material flow, and fixed prices.

 

Value creation and scalability

 

A small step for us, a giant leap for mankind! Said with a smile of course. We contribute with a small step of progress within a technological and commercial niche in which we have long time experience, deep knowledge and which we can overview. The value of RePanel is functional to the extent that it adds more quality the indoor climate than most alternatives. Further value for users and owners of the building is gained from aesthetic richness and remarkable, innovative appearance. RePanel is hip because the environmental value is documented, it is designed by renowned architects, and it offers an atmosphere of non-conformity without looking cheap.

 

The primary customers and users are - in a short to mid-term perspective - clients and consultants with a high consciousness about design and sustainability and a will to give priority to both aspects. We expect the typical project to be interior design of office domiciles, customer centres, shops, restaurants and some private residences. In a long-term perspective wooden panels will hopefully be reborn as a fully integrated part of ordinary building culture.

 

RePanel offers value points including:

  1. Notable identity that radiates high design quality.
  2. A flexible system
  3. Documented high quality of indoor climate due to the material’s inherent capability for reducing noise, stabilizing indoor air humidity and low thermal radiation.
  4. Significant robustness to hard use (e.g. in schools) that optimizes life cycle costs (LCC) accordingly.
  5. Possibly higher resale value or at the level of comparable new products when a refined vintage-quality can be added.
  6. b. A documented low climate impact compared to current alternatives.

 

RePanel is an early version of a future product typology which will grow along with technological improvement of its production and the consequent cost reduction. We also expect that rising prices and regulations on current products based on virgin materials will lead to a more favourable market position for material systems based on pre-used components, 

We expect the designed identity will expectedly change over time according to the technological development and cultural habituation which will probably call for downplaying the spectacular reuse-aesthetics that particularly appeals to first-movers. We expect the value of the products to rise over time similar to modern furniture classics. Thus it is our ultimate vision that building components – in deep contrast to current practice – should become refined cultural products and regain a position as carrier of a highly developed civilisation. 

Circularity

RePanel is produced from wood components from building demolitions and as such a result of an urban mining process. The lifecycle of the product itself is practically endless due to its robustness and its ability to become restored and refreshed by washing, sanding and possible surface treatment. The panels can be used in several ‘generations’ i.e. in different buildings over hundreds of years. The resale value can in best case raise over time if the design quality is sufficiently high. Technically is RePanel a system solution developed according to best practice standards for Design for Disassembly and hence the mounting principles will be reversible, safe and designed for an optimal working environment.

 

RePanel is produced from repurposed wooden components, which is currently regarded as a type of waste with a value based on its capacity as fuel for incineration plants. As such the material does not constitute a significant ressource when compared to e.g. household waste. Therefore incineration of waste wood can be considered a very low level of utilisation when compared to direct reuse, recycling, upcycling or repurposing. Though wood in itself has a very low climate footprint compared to other building materials (e.g. concrete, steel, aluminium, glass) the environmental benefit from reuse is significant when it replaces materials produces from virgin ressources.

 

In a short term perspective the amount of material will be insignificant as contribution to save the climate. The production of RePanel will estimatedly be able to process yearly 500 t growing to 20.000 t over a ten year period equivalent to 10% of the total amount of waste in this category. Most crucial, however, is the development of the technology and the cultural practice related to reuse. RePanel will, as a hopefully commercial success, generate an incentive to create similar products and in best case spark a competition-based evolution. This might eventually result in a situation where almost all wood from demolition is utilised for repurposing.

 

The product is introduced as a necessary and aesthetic alternative to using new materials. Hence the waste fractions that are reduced are new components with a short lifecycle such as plasterboards as well as the wood which is directly reused and repurposed with a long lifecycle.

The significance of wood as a waste category is less than concrete which constitutes the largest amounts and the highest impact on the climate. Neverthelss the contribution from repurposing wood is considerable when the climate impact from the replaced alternative is calculated. The reduction of CO2 will be proportional with the amount of produced RePanel elements.

 

The environmental value is equal to the climate impact of new materials minus the climate impact of reprocessing. In a lifecycle analysis there are two options: 1. To keep the incineration value as a constant since the eventual incineration is only postponed or 2. To count the incineration value as a negative since it possibly replaces fossile energy sources. The choice of method may change according to changes in energy-mix. It is decided to perform full LCAs of all RePanel products in order to document the environmental benefit and to locate the critical parts of the reprocessing for optimisation purposes.

New, different or even radical?

RePanel represents the extension of a number of commissions executed by Genbyg during the last five years. The assignments are characterised by being highly customised solutions. The ascertained demand, however, calls for a standardised product suite to offer a more stable market supply based on stock production, a steady material flow, and fixed prices.

 

Products for wall cladding and suspended ceilings based on virgin resources exist on the market. RePanel, however, fills a gap for high-end decorative wall panels and competes with existing products for acoustic panels. We do not believe that abstract, sterile whiteness is the end of architectural history. The reintroduction of a wooden wall panel as a classical component category reflects our belief that time is ripe for a showdown with the technocratic, utilitarian modernism.

 

The radicality of the product is to be found in the revolution of the architectural culture which it represents. RePanel is a reinvention of the wooden wall panels that characterised the interiors of renaissance and classicist periods. The amenity value of rich profiling and decoration has in modernist architecture largely been abandoned and replaced by slick, white painted, anonymous walls. RePanel offers to give back the stylistic richer interior architecture of the past in a modern – but not modernist - design marked by tactility and a playful visual appearance.

Market

The previous commissions have all been on the Danish market. However, as the RePanel product line is designed as a system it is suited for exporting logistics and Genbyg has already today an advanced and well-functioning webshop. This can be prepared further by dimensioning of the components. It is likely that most of the sale will take place in Denmark and Northern Europe due to shared cultural preferences. On the other hand, since modernism has never been as dominating in US and UK as in Europe there is hope for a commercial success on those great markets. The team would like get assistance from the CCC program to analyse the markets.

Business model

The business model is based on the following:

  1. A steady supply of waste wood components preferably from a waste-handling agent. In the start-up period the price will need to be very low, i.e. based on the actual expenses. Later, when the demand is steady and the production is stabilised, there will be room for profits. This means that initial good-will from the waste-handling agent will probably be a condition. The waste-handling agent must hence be able to be motivated by the anticipation of future profits.
  2. Genbyg can use its existing storage capacity and machinery for production of RePanel. This means that a minimum of investments are required. The primary costs are labour. The amount of labour can possibly be reduced by novel technological inventions which is the reason for seeking partners within the fields of technological research. In the start-up period and on Genbygs existing facilities can be used to develop and produce the necessary prototypes.
  3. As a high-end product RePanel will become a product in constant developing, releasing new products on a yearly basis. There will certainly be parts of the product suite that turns into classics but there will be a need for frequent adjusting to the market and even delivering surprises. Thus there will be a need for a steady access to design and architectural competences which is the reason for the partnership with Vandkunsten Architects.
  4. As a point of departure the RePanel products will be sold as ordinary building materials. However, since the system are robust and totally reversible it offers the very best conditions for business models based on leasing, take-back, ESCO etc. This potential, and in particular the possible financing models, is something the team would very much like to be assisted with through the CCC-programme.

 

Social, economic and environmental gains

  • The social gains of RePanel:

It is impossible to declare the effect of RePanel without listing the general amenities of wooden interiors which are as a minimum the following:

Improved indoor climate including soft acoustics, air humidity stabilisation, low thermal radiation and a nice smell. It might not be proven and hard to measure but we believe that these material properties tend to create a gentle atmosphere which stimulates the users of the building to perform and behave better. RePanel hereby supports a general architectural agenda for social sustainability.

The documented acoustic properties can be obtained by choosing the right product and hereby create value for the users such as improved performance in schools (better learning results) and working places (efficiency).

The specific features of RePanel will – when decoded in a congenial cultural context – be appreciated due to the amenities of the design qualities; composition, colours, profiling, fittings, ornamental rythms, and tactility which may bring pleasure to the spectator.

  • The economic gains of RePanel:

RePanel is a perfect example of LCC-optimisation of a building part. The economic lifetime is a bit long due to the relatively high price. However, the functional, technical and social lifecycles are extremely long which more than compensate for the initial increased costs. Technical robustness combined with high design quality protects the components from being discarded before the end of the technical lifetime. If the functionality of the products become obsolete or unneeded they can be removed for reuse elsewhere with little effort and at little expense. The resale potential is substantial although it is difficult to estimate with exactness.

RePanel products will replace alternatives based on virgin resources and hence weaken the market positions of those alternatives. Whether this is an advantage in a national economic perspective is not something our team has the skills to assess. To the long-term global economy, we believe that any contribution to the transition from linear to circular economy by marketing products based on reuse and technical reversibility should be welcomed - even if the immediate effect is modest.

                     

UN Sustainable Development Goals addressed by the solution

RePanel addresses several of the UN World Goals including:

  • #3 Good health and wellbeing: The choice of RePanel as wall cladding will provide better indoor climate and increase the wellbeing of users.
  • #9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure: RePanel contributes to the development of circular business models and innovative technology for resource saving.
  • #11 Sustainable cities and communities: RePanel is positioned as an integrated part of the urban metabolism as demander of waste material for reprocessing.
  • #12 Responsible production and consumption: By carefully documenting all processes and executing LCAs for all products fully transparent declarations are provided for consumers. 
  • #13 Climate action: Despite its relatively modest scale the RePanel products contributes as a positive by diminishing the demand for virgin resources.

 

Co-creation

It takes a variety of professional disciplines to successfully develop a product suite like RePanel. The social and material actors in the value chain can briefly be listed as below. Every single one of these are potential subject to further development which implies that the totality of the value chain is a highly dynamic field to navigate in. Please note that it is hard for us to be very precise in our account for these matters since this is exactly what we ask for assistance to!

 

  • Demolition contractors

The conditions of the contracts influence significantly on the quality of the components potentially bound for reuse. Favourable conditions can be provided through a focus on possible reuse in tenders authored by technical consultants for clients. Conditions to ensure careful demolition can result in higher bids and thus the ethic standard of the clients becomes decisive for the result. Legal standards to ensure responsible behaviour from clients will be required in the future. Standards are likely to become part of a voluntary sustainability class as part of a transparent implementation of circular principles in the building code.

  • Demolition tools and training:

Better tools and training in the demolition industry is required to optimise the quality of the material. Legal standards can be improved to ensure that materials are treated and sorted to enable reuse. More advanced educational offers in demolition as a professional discipline might be required in the future, e.g. a ‘demolition engineer’ training programme at a technical university. 

  • Waste-handling agents:

The recipient part of the demolition industry are key actors in their capacity of handlers and possible redistributors. Companies like RGS are large well driven and aware of their role in the transition from linear to circular economy. They have deep knowledge and experience in handling immense amounts of materials and they have a natural strong commercial incentive to turn waste materials into products of higher value. As suppliers for the RePanel production they are in the right position to bridge between demolition contractors and purchaser (Genbyg) – by describing receiving qualities as input to the demolition contracts and by defining the obtainable quality that frames the purchasers reprocessing task.

 

  • Purchasers:

Genbyg buys and stores the material in the highest obtainable quality. The reprocessing is planned as a composition of human labour and machines. The goal is to decrease the human share of the process along with the evolving of better technology.

  • Machines:

Genbyg has invested in strong and efficient, but traditional, woodworking machinery for cutting, planning and sanding wood. The handling of components including the detection and extraction of steel fittings of all kind is still executed manually. Automatization of these processes are required in order to bring the price down.

Technical researchers: Robot engineers do already today possess sufficient skills and knowledge to produce automatized solutions whenever their development expenses can get covered. More challenging is the technology for full screening of toxic containments e.g. PCB and mercury.

  • Architects and designers:

The appearance of the products is extremely important and the designing task is a never ending process of adjusting to current material qualities, new technology, changing needs and fashions. The designers will create within a set technological framework but at the same time they will challenge the framework by demanding technological innovation. As part of the development the designers will perform visualisations, models, mock-ups and prototype. The modelling will include process design as flow diagrams and design of tools.

  • Acoustic engineers:

As part of the design process there will be a frequent need for acoustic engineering to develop, test and document the products’ properties. Possibly the product data will be computed in a software for consultants (with Trolltekt’s acoustic tool as a model).

  • Marketing agents:

Business professionals will be involved with developing marketing strategy, analysing segments, tuning the business model, defining commercial milestones, product placement, event-making, advertising, communicating, contract negotiating etc. In the early stages these functions can perhaps be united in one dynamic person in combination with an advisory board.

  • Advisory board:

In order to get inspiration and inputs from experts an advisory board with a handful of experienced people will add value to the process. Members might be people with experience from the manufacturing industry, representatives for clients and users, university researchers within the fields of technology and business.

 

Partnerships

The RePanel product development will bring numerous opportunities for partnerships. Which of them will be realised is depending on how well the mutual business interests match and result in synergies. Some of them can be described in advance such as the following:

1. Genbyg and Vandkunsten: The CCC-initiated collaboration will continue the previous ad hoc collaboration between the two companies with the intention to establish a more permanent business synergy. A product suite which needs to be maintained, cultivated and tested constitutes the need for a design responsible actor with deep knowledge about the construction market and who occasionally gets the opportunity to introduce the products as part of building commissions. Vandkunsten will maintain IPR to the product design.

2. Genbyg and a waste-handling agent: A likely business synergy is the relationship between the waste-handling agents and Genbyg as respectively distributor and purchaser. The mutual dependency constitutes the basis for long-term contracts to ensure steady sale and delivery.

 

Competencies needed

We do not expect that the CCC-collaboration can solve all challenges in the development of the RePanel product suite, but a possible helping hand from the CCC-programme might reinforce our team’s capacity in one or more of the following fields of knowledge:

 

1. Marketing strategy: Our team has very strong technical competences and a deep knowledge of the current market conditions but lacks a professional methodology to analyse the market, to target the right segments and to develop the business concept.

2. An improved supply flow: The present supply of wood components from demolitions are depending on ad hoc deals and singular contracts and the materials come in unsorted qualities. A collaboration with a large waste handling agent, e.g. RGS, on organising a material flow has a business potential for both parts.

3. The greatest barrier for increased use of reused materials is the documentation of the toxicological cleanness of the products. A collaboration with a technical university, research institution or private consultancy company on developing an affordable screening technology would be very attractive.

4. Automatization: When the wooden components are reprocessed the primary cost-driver is the detection and elimination of nails, screw and similar hardware. We believe this proces can be automatized by development of hand tools or robots. A contact to a company with a business-driven incentive to solve this challenge would be much wanted.

5. Optimisation of lifecycle: A large part of the RePanel products needs fire retardant impregnation. This process is currently the most important environmental burden as it involves transportation and power consumption for desiccation. An optimisation of these processes would improve the environmental profile and reduce production costs. A collaboration with a technical university or a private company within the field would be of great interest.

 

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