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The Upcycle Tile

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

8. oktober 2018

The project in short

With our project we wish to take the ideas of circular use of materials to the domain of landscape architecture by creating an upcycled alternative to concrete/stone paving. Our idea is simply put to start sawing these pieces out of concrete construction waste rather than using new concrete/stone.


Paving stones are one of the most widely used elements of landscape architecture found in both public settings such as streets or parks down to the small scale domain of the private garden. These elements are either cut stone (mined from the bedrock around the world) or cast from concrete (at a high cost in virgin materials such as sand and CO2 emissions from making cement).



We wish to use a very common construction waste fraction - concrete - and use it as a resource to create a new product as an alternative to the current downcycling method of crushing it. By doing so we aim to mine the current waste stream for our virgin materials making the waste a resource rather than a burden. How much of the fraction that can be transformed will depend largely on the cutting techniques and the technical requirements of the final product but potentially a substantial amount of the available fraction could be used. Concrete is the largest waste material when buildings are demolished and has been very costly in CO2 to produce - as well as is nemly molded concrete paving. The gain is therefore twofold - it prevents downcycling of existing elements and prevents excessive new production. Depending on where the energy for sawing is sourced the CO2 reduction on this type of product, concrete stone paving, could theoretically be reduced by 100 %.


In a study done by Teknologisk Institut (see appendix), it’s estimated that approx. 11% of the yearly concrete tiles consumption can be replaced with reused tiles. If done so the yearly estimated environmental savings would be 16.000t reduction of CO2 and energy savings on approx. 100.000GJ. Futhermore there could be a economical saving on approx. DKK50.000.000/y.



Our product is a replacement/complement to a widely used product - made from a globally available waste material. Our vision is to implement a new global standard where old buildings set for demolition can be seen as the obvious raw material for this type of product. Finding solutions for putting stone sawing techniques in use to transform concrete waste could be a radical shift in this very common product is perceived.


Cutting up concrete into paving has been suggested as a viable way to reuse concrete (where making new construction elements have proven very costly).The potential is there, but no prototypes have been shown. Rather than proposing a technically advanced solution for circularity in the domain new believe it is by combining existing techniques that a whole new market could be created for a product that is widely used.


Value Creation

Our primary customers are all those involved in the making of outdoors spaces - architects/builders primarily but also to some extent the private sector. The market is global but it makes sense to make production relatively local to minimize transport. Our value creation for the architect/builder lies in the fact that the material is circular and comes with a story and an interesting esthetic look. For the demolisher one of their largest fractions (concrete waste is approx. 25% of the total waste mass from construction, see appendix) suddenly increases in value and can be up- rather than downcycled - which can turn both into an economic benefit but also help answer the increasing demand (politically as well as by the market) for sustainable practices. The raw material of our product, concrete demolition waste, has a very low value and is costly to crush. On the other hand concrete stone paving is widely used and requires a relatively long production chain. Our economic model lies in using this energy in working the waste rather than producing new elements. The planet benefits both from less wasted materials and from less new production of concrete or mining of the bedrock. This means less carbon dioxide emissions and less waste of materials (that have already led to emissions) and use of non-renewable resources.


Our proposal addresses the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:


Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure - because the production we envision is relatively low-tech and could be practiced in almost any country where there is concrete waste.

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production - because our product reduces waste and reduces new production from finite virgin materials.

Goal 13: Climate action - because our product reduces emissions of CO2 by changing a mode of production.



The supply of our virgin material (concrete buildings being demolished) and the demand for the product (concrete/stone paving) are both globally present. Developing workable practices for manufacturing our product thus has a potential scalability on a global scale. We believe that many of the technical solutions needed already exist but need to be used differently through new partnerships. Luckily, the businesses involved in cutting stone (that could potentially cut concrete slabs as well, are already in the right market as it comes to our product - they are used to delivering to the building industry and to communicate with architects and engineers. Developing prototypes and best practices for producers and testing the materials to ensure quality needs to be done before the product can be put on the market. As for the consumer we believe there is demand for circular landscape products but a total lack of products, the builders/architects must therefore be presented with the product and sufficient tests need to be done to show its durability.  



We have been able to point at four key players necessary for creating a realistic prototype of our product:

  • Demolishers, to secure the raw material and figure out what handling of it will be necessary. These are the people “mining” the urban waste and there practices probably need to be developed for our needs. Their incentive will be both economical (turning their waste into a resource to be sold) and political/legislative (showing that reuse is taking place).
  • Industrial partners, most likely from the stone cutting business or maybe from the concrete industry to find industrial production methods. We believe in enabling a new business in tandem with the ongoing one rather than creating something from scratch. Turning their business more sustainable and innovative should secure a good dialogue.
  • Technical Institutes, to perform tests on the product so as to figure out questions of durability and how to assess the raw material. Performing these tests an developing standards is typically within the core activity of these institutions.
  • Builders/architects are the customers and need to be pleased with the product. There is a move towards circular solutions within the business but a lack of products. The development of these products need to happen in tandem with assessments from the customer.


We have held primary meetings with technical institutions that have shown interest towards the project. The same goes for the architect/builder segment that has given us positive feedback. We are yet to reach agreements within the demolisher- and industrial partners segment.



When concrete is cut the aggregate is shown in a way similar to terrazzo. This gives it a unique look that also tells the story of the material - that it has come from somewhere else. It has within it a recycled feeling while not being too esthetically extreme - quite the opposite. We therefore believe that the general acceptance as to looks will be high.


The CC programme

We believe that our idea is globally scalable and possible to achieve with a relatively low level of development. However, the process as well as the product needs to be tested in realistic situations and by industry professionals. What we mainly hope to gain from the CC programme is support for development, partnerships with strong industrial players and help in business development of the idea as a whole.