Berlin's CRCLR house is the city's first-ever centre for the circular economy.
The circular economy could be the key to a truly sustainable economy. Based on the idea of a completely regenerative, global supply and trade chain, in which no finite resources are consumed, its goal is to keep the value and utility of all products, parts and materials as high as possible, so that they can be continuously repaired, reworked and reused - unlike instead of ending up in landfill. While our traditional economic model sees waste as implicit (though ideally it will eventually be recycled) - in the circular economy nothing is wasted, there are only existing resources that can be used over and over again.
The potential of the circular economy are particularly relevant for the construction sector. It's one of the most resource-intensive sectors of the economy and therefore has a huge impact on the climate. Hundreds of tons of materials, mainly non-organic, non-renewable raw ones, are used every year in the construction and demolition of buildings. In Europe, the Waste Framework Directive states that by by 2020, 70 per cent of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste has to be recycled or recovered.
The problem is that far too often, nobody knows which materials and valuable resources are actually installed in the buildings, so they cannot be reused or meaningfully recycled after the end of their use, meaning they often simply end up in landfills. At the same time, huge amounts of waste are generated during construction. In Europe, it is one of the biggest sources of waste - accounting for around 25-30 per cent of the entire waste generated in the EU. In order to achieve fundamental change, we have to build with foresight: not only using renewable raw materials but aso thinking in advance how they can be used afterwards.
Circular construction: building with foresight
The CRCLR House in Berlin's Neukölln district is certainly setting a good example. Founded in 2016, it's a space for ideas to be created and exchanged, and people to work on projects all around the topic of the circular economy. But it's not just a centre for circular economy projects - the coworking space, located in an old brewery, has been constructed entirely from waste, salvaged materials, and recycled building materials, including old plastic tarpaulins and hoardings from construction sites. Nothing new was bought - even the furniture was bought second hand from flea markets. CRCLR co-founder Simon Lee told the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung that: "We wanted to do two things. First, build with objects and materials that would otherwise have ended up as garbage. Second, construct the house like a warehouse, so that it can be easily dismantled later and the materials used elsewhere. So the startup has a list of all the materials used in the CRCLR House.
According to CRCLR’s German website: "Circular building is not just about recycled materials or sustainable construction, but first and foremost about whether it is even necessary to construct something new and, if so, what." Others would probably just have demolished the old brewery, where it stands, and built a new building on the site - not the CRCLR team. They've maintained existing structures and thought about how to modify and complement them to meet future building occupancy requirements.
"For us circular building means making this process possible: by using biodegradable materials, connecting things with plugs and screws and leaving space open for possibilities. We, ourselves, are in the process of understanding what circular building means. [...] We are looking forward to exploring it further and consolidating what we know."
Check out the video below for a few impressions of how the CRCLR House was built:
This is a translation by Ana Galán of an original article which first appeared on RESET's German-language site.