This idea is a part of The Circular Construction Challenge – Rethink Waste
Looking at waste in the built environment in terms of mass and embedded energy there is one material that stands out above the rest – that is concrete.
On a global scale concrete has been the go-to material in the building industry everywhere from the west to the east, from tropic regions to deserts and in established as well as rising economies.
Even if we find circular construction methods to replace the material in the future, concrete will continue to be one of the most significant waste products we will encounter in generations to come.
When a structure is demolished today, the concrete typically gets broken to pieces and the reinforcing steel recycled. The concrete is crumbled and used as filling in road construction or in other ways degraded, devalued and discarded.
With every cubic meter of concrete accounting for a 402kg CO2 footprint from the production phase, it is not only a monetary loss of value but an environmental one.
With Circrete we intend to create new value form otherwise devalued concrete by creating a line of new circular building products with massive scalability, global reach and intriguing architectural potential.
The vision of Circrete is to praise the aesthetic qualities in weathered or worn concrete structures by cutting them up to smaller parts that, when rearranged in the form of bricks, tiles or larger components offers great visual and tactile quality.
We aim to deliver circular building products, that handles a specific and continuing waste issue and at the same time offers new architectural possibilities.
If we view manmade structures as pristine resources and bring out the potential in reuse and upcycling we will not only save energy and lower the impact of the product but also offer building materials with character, history and relevance. Here is an examples of added value:
An industrial urban area is being redeveloped into a new sustainable mixed-use neighborhood. Some of the industrial buildings are transformed to housing and offices, but some are not eligible for conversion.
By cutting the concrete floor from a warehouse Circrete can provide anything from brick, tiles and even pavement and curbs with that same local concrete and thereby build on the existing history of the place, as well as delivering circular construction.
As the choice of materials and design is made by the architects and urban planers with their clients Circrete must reach out to inform them of the value of upcycling their structures. Circrete would then handle the deconstruction of the selected concrete structure and produce the specified circular products for the client.
Circrete can also acquire material from decommissioned structures without a direct plan for using said material in that same location. Circrete will then obtain the concrete at low or no cost and cut it to a range of commercial products to be sold.
The potential market for Circrete is global and of massive scale. The resource is everywhere and by custom computer aided manufacturing the range of potential products will appeal to all markets. The crucial part of making Circrete a success is developing the way the material is mined and treated.
We intend to use concrete cutting saws on site to cut movable parts of concrete to transport to the workshop. Here we plan to use computer controlled CNC and waterjet cutting machines to cut and prepare the actual products. As concrete is a hard material lowering the cost of cutting and polishing is the main focus in scaling.
Circrete is founded by architect and designer Tim Nørlund. As of the time of submission Circrete does not have any signed partners, as the concept has been developed in response to this challenge in short time. However, we are working on partnering with an established concrete cutting contractor as well as companies with expertise in waterjet cutting and building demolition. Hopefully this challenge can help us get in touch with the right partners.