Business Reuse

Test to document quality of reused building components

Tuesday 13 Apr 21


Lisbeth M. Ottosen
Professor, head of section for Materials and Durability
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 22 60
Research project will develop methods for testing the quality of concrete, steel, and wood, thus allowing greater reuse of building components and reducing the climate impact of the construction industry.

Reuse of building components of concrete, steel, and wood can make a significant contribution to sustainable development in the construction industry and create a fertile ground for new companies. In a new Grand Solution research project: BusinessReuse – Enabling business by reuse of basic building components—anchored at DTU—a consortium will develop methods for testing and documenting the quality of reused building components. The project has received DKK 10.6 million from Innovation Fund Denmark and Realdania.

“Reuse of building components offers a great potential for reducing CO2 emissions and depletion of natural resources. Today, 85 per cent of building components are reused as decomposed materials. However, by developing tests that can describe and document the quality of building components, we can open up for direct reuse of entire building parts, thus preserving the value and energy already used to produce the components,” says Professor Lisbeth M. Ottosen, Head of Section for Materials and Durability at DTU, who heads the research project.

Test of building materials

"By developing tests that can describe and document the quality of building components, we can open up for direct reuse of entire building parts, thus preserving the value and energy already used to produce the components"
Lisbeth M. Ottosen

The consortium behind the research project, which—in addition to DTU—consists of Dansk Standard, Gate 21, Centre for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Aarhus University, Lendager Group, Rambøll Danmark A/S, and Adsbøll Renovation A/S, will develop a classification system for used building components.

The classification must be based on standardized requirements for what components of concrete, wood, and steel must meet to be reused in construction. Under the project, the parties will develop methods for testing the quality of the components based on the established criteria. For example, the researchers assess that methods for testing building components can be based on non-destructive studies of ultrasound and electric current, which can establish the technical characteristics of the components such as strength and possibly decomposition stage.

In the research project, the new standardized requirements and test methods will be tested in full-scale experiments, to document the methods and obtain data on the value of reused building components if they are assessed in a life cycle analysis (LCA) or in a life cycle costing (LCC) calculation for a building. All data, new test methods and classification system must be incorporated into the general shared technological knowledge, which is the cornerstone of the quality system of the building sector.

New industry for reuse

The researchers behind the project assess that the development of new test methods can form the basis for a number of new companies engaged in reuse of building materials. In Denmark alone, it is estimated that the reuse of building components and materials will have a net value of EUR 100-150 million in 2035.

The classification systems and test methods developed in the research project will be included as a Danish contribution to the development of common European standards in the new European Technical Committee under CEN on circular economy in building and construction, which is headed by Danish Standards. The research project is at the forefront in relation to standards for reuse of building materials and can thus result in export of Danish know-how, create new jobs, and generate growth.

Strong consortium behind test development

Lendager Group—which is a market leader in the use of reused and recycled materials in construction—will use the tested reused materials as building components in specific construction projects, implement non-destructive test methods (NDTs), and apply them in the mapping of materials in their client advisory services.
Adsbøll Renovation A/S has strategic focus on reuse and optimization in relation to demolition, including offering building owners a greener profile through increased reuse and recycling.
Rambøll Danmark A/S sees the use of NDT techniques as a strategically important area in the work to create sustainable solutions for the company’s customers.
DTU Civil Engineering focuses on circular construction, and the project forms part of DTU’s research, scientific advice, and innovation as an elite university with strong competences in circular construction and circular economy.
Danish Standards has just been appointed by CEN to head and run a new European Technical Committee on Circular Economy in Construction (CEC) under which common future standards are to be developed. Results from this project can thus serve as a Danish contribution to the development of European standards that can promote the circular transition of building and construction, and shape the market of the future.
Gate 21 is supported in its core business in development and testing of green and circular solutions for the construction industry through innovative public-private partnerships.
Centre for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Aarhus University focuses on how SMEs can create and manage growth and development, including how SMEs best utilize the business opportunities created by the green transition. Read more.
DTU Skylab participates in project activities aimed at involving engineering students in collaboration and development projects with companies and clarifying the basis for new start-ups in the green transition.

Consultation of the industry

The establishment of the necessary documentation and function requirements constitutes an essential part of the increased reuse of materials in the construction industry through the use of NDTs. Therefore, the partners of the construction industry are invited to join an advisory board and will be continuously involved in the identification of both potentials and barriers, and to acquire a joint understanding of documentation requirements.

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