The living labs in FISSAC aim to establish sectorial approaches to identify and mitigate barriers regarding the effective uptake of construction and demolition waste and to convert these material flows towards high value applications as secondary resources.

Starting point in Germany

The base-line situation depends strongly on the type of material contained in the waste streams. With respect to the economic value in secondary materials, or with respect to regulatory requirements on waste disposal, business models for the uptake of secondary resources are well established and common practice, e.g. recycling of metals and glass, energy recovery from plastics and other combustible materials. Waste incineration however is not a recycling option according to the EU waste directive, but a waste management approach.

For these materials and waste fractions, the establishment of “new secondary routes” are only meaningful, when the new suggested route presents higher efficiency or enables the replacement of more scarce resources, or materials generated with higher environmental, economic or social impact.

The ultimate point of concern is not the recycled content in a product, but resource efficiency and the effective use of resources in an enlarged system view.

Result of discussions with stakeholders

Building construction and demolition companies

  • Waste management in construction and demolition is an issue of concern, largely covered by legal requirements and economic penalties
  • The requirements on sorting waste correspond to the current abilities of the recycling business
  • Sorting of high value fractions results in an economic benefit for the construction and demolition businesses
  • Work site conditions sometimes conflict with waste handling goals, e.g. time, available space, integration in the work flow and organisation of material routing on site

Product manufacturers (cradle to gate)

  • The business model of many manufacturers includes international supply chains, where final steps of manufacturing or assembly are carried out by the producers
  • The influence on the supply chains takes place through tendering and purchasing, “green purchasing” with established requirements on e.g. social standards or material qualities would need to be complemented with other topics, such as e.g. use of secondary resources

Product manufacturers (gate to grave)

  • Typically, the responsibility of the manufacturer ends with the product delivered, or depending on the product, with the product installed and taken into operation as an integrated element of a building.
  • With regards to life cycle concerns, many manufacturers apply expanded concepts, including monitoring and optimisation of performance in building operation, expanded warranties, service contracts, including leasing instead of purchasing, or even functional contracting models.
  • Take back at the end of life has been identified as both a topic finding interest in the market leading to image advantages, but also as a potential approach to regain resources bound in the products at their end-of-life.
  • Main aspects of concern are:
    • Long time difference between purchasing / installation and return of the product
    • Change of technical preconditions over time – what appears meaningful today does not necessarily need to be advantageous in the context of e.g. future energy systems
    • Changes applied to the materials / products during the service life of the building
    • Impurifications or mixing caused during the use phase or during deconstruction, sorting, treatment and transportation processes
    • Matching requirements for the uptake of secondary resources with the qualities of materials supplied for recycling

For established recycling routes, the business concepts are rolled out across Germany, leading to the situation that there is no need for direct local cooperation

→ Exception: transportation efforts for low value but high weight or high volume material streams, e.g. secondary concrete

Facing new approaches (e.g. recycling of window glass into new float-glass instead of standard glass recycling processes) facilities developing, refining and establishing these approaches and technologies are single spot appearances, their resources rely on local supply and their products often serve a local user. First when market awareness is in place and a business model is established, these approaches may spread to a different factor of scale, become economically feasible and more widespread in allocation.

Living Labs

To tackle these subjects, we have decided not to set up specific FISSAC workshops or regional groups. Conceptually following the open workshop approach, we carry out living-lab-type activities within our networks.

  • With the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) we are refining the Green Building Labelling Scheme, also involving discussions on how to address recycling issues as part of the environmental life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, responsible sourcing, easy for future deconstruction and recyclability
  • With the Institut Bauen und Umwelt – a branch association addressing environmental subjects relating to construction products and environmental product declarations, with a broad membership of producers, manufacturers and associations, we are discussing routes how to include end-of-life aspects into sustainability communication related to organisations and products
  • For the German federal environmental agency (UBA) we are conducting an R&D project on identifying end-of-life routes, setting up scenarios for significant routes in order to include these scenarios in the communication of environmental product performance. In the context of this R&D project, international workshops with a wide range of stakeholders are being held, addressing topics:
    • Identifying current practice and desirable end-of-life-routes
    • Identifying preconditions and detailing end-of-life-routes
    • Quantifying routes and demonstrate the influence on environmental performance of products
  • At the same time, we are discussing with manufacturers and consulting them on the trends to be expected from these and other approaches in their business environment, feeding their perspectives back into the discussions in the mentioned projects and activities.

In conclusion, we are conducting and participating in a range of discussion fora, not necessarily primarily carried out for FISSAC, but enabling us to contribute content to FISSAC.