Blog posts Archives | Recreate

February 28, 2024
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José Hernández Vargas

Architect and PhD student at KTH Royal Institute of Technology

A precondition for reusing precast elements is a correct understanding of the underlying logic of different building systems and the structural interactions between concrete elements. The analysis of existing precast systems starts with a thorough examination across multiple scales, as building layouts, individual elements and their connections are interdependent.

During ReCreate, several precast concrete systems have been identified and studied. While specific pre-demolition auditing and quality control are critical steps towards reusing concrete elements, this ordering of precast elements operates at an earlier and more abstract level, providing a knowledge base for known precast systems that may apply to multiple instances. This task attempts to provide an overview and develop guidelines for the further classification and digitalisation of precast elements as potential material for reuse. Moreover, the information gathered can serve as methodological guidelines for other systems that may differ from the studied cases but follow the same core principles.

When examining technical drawings from historical precast systems it is important to identify patterns that reveal the systematic ordering of the elements. This initial step involves identifying the underlying measurement system from the axes of the building, from which standard layouts can be inferred in discrete modules. Strict repetition patterns can often be found, especially in residential buildings, where building blocks are constituted by the repetition of a building module defined by a staircase. Similarly, this building module can be divided into residential units corresponding to the individual flats on each floor. Each unit defines in turn a defined arrangement of precast elements that can be precisely estimated for each building.

Thus, architectural and structural knowledge of precast buildings is essential for accurately estimating the building stock and potential for reuse of precast buildings. Given the economies of scale involved in this kind of building, the goal of this step is to build a knowledge base to establish workflows for the ordering and analysis of potential donor buildings for reuse.

Building scale

At the building scale, the analysis centres on the identification and classification of precast structures by structural principles and different building types. Precast buildings can be found in all sorts of applications. Yet, despite the wide range of structural solutions they predominantly follow a limited set of basic structural systems. The most prevalent structural frameworks for precast concrete include the portal-frame, skeletal structures, and wall-frame structures. Structural systems for arranging precast structural systems are closely linked to the building types they serve, responding to the intended program’s requirements. For example, portal-frame structures are most suitable for industrial buildings that require large open spaces. Conversely, for residential buildings wall-frame structures are more often the most cost-effective solution as load-bearing walls also separate living spaces. Beyond buildings completely built out of precast components, specialised subsystems can be found for facades, floors and roofs in combination with other structural systems.

System Skarne 66 (Sweden) and their main structural components form the original technical drawings (left) and as a digital 3D model (right)

Component scale

At the scale of individual precast elements, the foremost classification derives from grouping them by their structural role in the structure, i.e., as walls, columns, slabs, roofs, beams, foundations, and stairs that constitute the structure of the building. These categories are based on the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) Standard (ISO16739-1), which provides a consistent framework for describing elements within the construction industry. These groups can be understood and modelled as variations of the same parametric object, akin to a family of building components. This process is key for building a comprehensive database of precast elements contained in each building.

To further understand the arrangement of elements that constitute a system, the overall dimensions of each element can be plotted to reveal the dispersion of distinct types within the system. In this example, all the elements are aligned in Cartesian space to define the largest dimension on each axis. This method allows the creation of a ‘fingerprint’ of each building, that shows a concise overview of the dispersion of element types and the individual quantities involved. Alignments resulting from common features such as floor heights and standard modules, can also be observed.

Comparison of the ‘fingerprint’ tool showing the types of elements used in System Skarne 66 (Sweden) and BES (Finland). Dot size indicates the number of elements of each type whereas colour corresponds to the main component categories.

Connector scale

At the connector scale, the different relationships between concrete elements can be related to force transfers and security features to ensure the correct and reliable transmission of forces. Connectors are key to ensuring structural integrity by managing structural loads while accommodating additional stresses and strains that arise from thermal movements, residual loads, seismic loads, and fire exposure, among others. A key aspect for evaluating the connectors is the assessment of the alternatives for disassembly and possibly reusing the connector. Analysing precast buildings at the connector scale allows the identification of the compatibility of precast elements across multiple systems from the analysis and comparison of structural details.

Ordering precast systems across these three scales provides a comprehensive picture of how precast systems are conceived, manufactured, and assembled. This knowledge is instrumental for understanding the possibilities that these elements offer for the next building lifecycle. This ordering will serve as the basis for classifying different precast systems into taxonomies and for the digitalisation of existing precast stocks as material for reuse in future projects.


January 31, 2024
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Toni Tuomola, District Manager, Skanska (Finland)

Skanska’s role in ReCreate is strongly linked to its goal of building a better society. Being climate-smart – one of our sustainability themes – supports the achievement of this goal. Within the ReCreate project, we are studying how to produce low-carbon solutions through our business operations. ReCreate will provide us with information on how the circular economy of building elements could be promoted in the future – for example, in the planning phases of construction projects. We can have a major influence over the carbon footprint of a project’s outcome, especially in in-house development projects and, above all, in projects where we are responsible for the design.

ReCreate’s Finnish deconstruction pilot site is a 1980s office building in the city of Tampere. The precast concrete frame has been dismantled using a new technique developed and studied as part of the project. Construction projects are complex entities that demand close cooperation to meet targets. We have already worked with the ReCreate project partners for a couple of years on studies and advance preparations to facilitate the practical deconstruction work. Thanks to the studies, we were capable of dismantling the precast concrete elements intact for reuse. We also know how to verify the properties of reusable elements reliably and cost-effectively.

The possibility of technical implementation alone is not enough

 

Creating a business ecosystem for reusing building elements is an important part of the project. Reuse requires off-site production plants for factory refurbishment and the creation of an entire logistics chain and information management process to put the elements to use again. A marketplace is also needed to bring product providers and users together. Barriers must be lowered in building regulations and practices, and operating models must be harmonized.

What are the implications if reuse is successful? Firstly, the environmental benefits will be significant because the carbon footprint of reused concrete elements is about 95% smaller than that of corresponding new elements. Therefore, it will be possible to realize a substantial decrease in the carbon footprint of new buildings. Reused elements may not necessarily be used to construct entire buildings, but they would be utilized in the most suitable places. This would ensure that the dimensional and strength properties of reused elements can be used to the best effect.

The reduction in the carbon footprint helps us to meet the low-carbon requirements that will be introduced through regulation in the future. Environmental certification programs such as LEED and BREEAM also award extra points for reusing building materials.

Decommissioning a building by deconstructing elements is slower and more expensive than conventional destructive demolition. However, prior international research has found that a reused element can be as little as 30% of the price of a new element. This is an important perspective for projects researching business opportunities based on the circular economy.

A climate-neutral society is the sum of many parts, large and small. The circular economy of precast concrete elements is one factor among many. We need all the parts to work together to reach this goal.


December 13, 2023
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Christoph Henschel, BTU

In conventional architectural projects, the use of the building and the design concept typically determine the dimensions of the structure. This means that the height of spaces, as well as the width and length of rooms, are defined by what will happen in them once they are built. Constraints on the size of a building are usually only imposed by limited budgets, the site and its context, or zoning laws. All of this changes drastically when reused precast concrete comes into play. Suddenly, the structure dictates the spatial dimensions, the grid size or the floor heights of the building design. This changes the design task for the architect and presents new challenges. In order to show that these challenges are also full of opportunities, the following text describes the design process for the German pilot project within the ReCreate project, a youth center for the town of Hohenmölsen.

The design task began with a detailed analysis of the elements that could be salvaged from the donor building. Specific types, dimensions and available quantities of exterior and interior walls and ceiling slabs were determined. Preliminary tests of the concrete strength and examination of the reinforcement properties ensured the suitability for reuse in advance. With this catalogue of elements as a starting point, the design process for the new building could begin – always with the goal of using as many reused elements and as little new material as possible.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

The mayor of Hohenmölsen drew up a rough room plan that served as the basis for the initial design. It included a multi-purpose room, a kitchen and dining hall, several smaller rooms for offices or after-school use, and some additional rooms such as restrooms, storage, and a technical room. With these requirements in mind, an initial building layout sketch was created with the goal of locating the various uses in customizable areas of the future building. Conditions such as the distance from the entrance, the proximity of certain rooms to each other, or the orientation to the east, west, or south to ensure the best lighting were taken into account.

This initial sketch was then superimposed on a grid of 2.4m by 3.6m – the maximum length of the ceiling slabs in the donor building. After a few attempts and several iterations of rotating certain rows in the grid by 90°, two initial building designs were created and presented to the town of Hohenmölsen.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

A special design decision was to use the former exterior walls not only as exterior walls but also as interior walls in the new building to show that the building was created from reused elements. This also allowed for interior windows between two rooms, which was an interesting way to visually connect separate rooms.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

The two initial building designs were presented by BTU at the town hall of Hohenmölsen and then discussed by the mayor with the town representatives. As a result of this discussion, BTU was asked to make a number of changes to the design in terms of size and use. This second design phase resulted in a combination of the two previous designs into one more detailed approach. In this design, it was already apparent that for the larger spaces, such as the dining room and multi-purpose room, the 3.6m ceiling spans were not sufficient, so new beams and columns were introduced to create wider spaces with double the span, resulting in a width of 7.2m. At this point, the method of showing reused elements in black lines and new material in red on the drawings was established. This allowed for a quicker overview of where reused elements would be located.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

During this design phase, the concept of multiple entrances to the building was developed, so that there is not just one main entrance, but several ways to approach the building, which can activate the building’s surroundings much better.

After another round of feedback from the town of Hohenmölsen, some minor changes were made and terrace roofs were added to the design. In this design, it is now possible to enter and exit the building from all four sides. This allows users to access the site from all sides. In this design, 47 used exterior walls, 7 used interior walls and 56 ceiling slabs are used.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

Some time passed and the town of Hohenmölsen contacted BTU again, stating that the original space plan was not sufficient and that more space was needed. With the experience from the previous designs, a new layout was developed. The new design introduced the idea of a functional block with all building services such as kitchen, toilets, storage, etc., to be placed in the center of the building. This allows all the other rooms where youth activities or office work will take place to receive natural light.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

The downside of this design was that it had a huge footprint of almost 700 m2 due to the increased space requirements. This led to the idea of arranging the spaces on two levels, creating a two-story building. The previous spatial configuration of a service core with a surrounding corridor and entrances on all four sides of the site was retained. Due to the peculiarities of the reused concrete elements and the limited grid size, it was decided that the upper floor would be accessed only by an exterior staircase to simplify the construction and avoid potential fire safety concerns.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg

In this final design, 35 exterior walls, 25 interior walls and 103 floor slabs from the donor building will be reused, resulting in a net floor area of 505 m2 on the ground floor and 263 m2 on the upper floor. The new structural elements are initially planned to be new precast concrete elements such as columns and beams. New exterior and interior walls will be made of wood stud walls and ecological insulation such as wood fiber boards. For the facade, the reused exterior walls can be insulated with only 6 cm of wood fiber boards due to the low density concrete they are made of, while the reused interior walls, which will be positioned as new exterior walls, will require 14 cm of insulation. The façade will be a ventilated cladding of reused wood panels and reused corrugated metal, installed as available.

All in all, the design process was challenging, but also interestingly unusual, because the building elements determined many decisions that would otherwise have to be made by the architect or the client. Introducing new elements and rotating the grid in certain places allowed for some flexibility and gave just enough freedom to realize all the required uses in the building. The German ReCreate country cluster hopes to start construction of the youth center in late 2024 or early 2025.

Resource: BTU Cottbus Senftenberg


December 8, 2023
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Ahmad Alnajjar, PhD student at KTH

ReCreate project is a forward-thinking initiative that explores the reuse of precast concrete elements from various angles. A key aspect of this project is evaluating the climate benefits from a life cycle perspective. Our recent work, particularly in the Swedish pilot construction, has shown promising results in reducing embodied carbon – a crucial step in sustainable and circular building practices. About 92% of embodied carbon was avoided at the building level which is largely attributed to the reuse of concrete elements, including precast concrete elements. This achievement aligns with previous research highlighting the benefits of reusing precast concrete and further emphasizes the reuse’s effectiveness in mitigating the environmental impact of construction. Unlike most previous studies, the embodied carbon evaluation of the Swedish ReCreate pilot project stands closer to real-world applicability. It is based on field experiments conducted by seasoned professionals in the building sector, adding practical validity and depth to our findings.

An important facet of our findings in the ReCreate project underscores a significant advantage in the reuse of whole precast concrete elements over traditional recycling methods. Through our comprehensive analysis, it has become evident that the embodied carbon savings achieved by reusing entire elements are considerably greater than those realized by merely crushing to recycled concrete aggregate and shredding the rebar to steel scrap. This distinction is crucial, as it highlights the substantial environmental benefits of reusing structures in their complete form. By opting for reuse over recycling, we not only retain the material’s inherent value but also significantly reduce the carbon footprint associated with the production of new building materials.

Our assessment has also brought to light interesting insights. Contrary to common concerns, we found for example that the transportation of reused elements does not significantly add to the project’s carbon footprint, as it is comparable to the transport distances of new building materials. We hope that this finding will encourage building industry actors to reconsider their material sourcing strategies, recognizing that incorporating reused elements can be both environmentally beneficial and logistically viable.

Currently, our team is focused on comprehensively understanding the future availability and demand for pre-used precast concrete elements. We are assessing both the timing of their availability and the quantities that can be effectively reused in new construction projects. By addressing these critical aspects, we aim to elucidate the role that reusing precast concrete elements can play in meeting Sweden’s and the EU’s ambitious climate goals.

Through the ReCreate project, we are exploring new avenues in construction, aiming to make a meaningful contribution to sustainable building practices. Our team is dedicated to not only implementing these innovative practices but also to rigorously documenting and analyzing our findings. Our research will soon be available in various scientific journals, providing a detailed and scholarly overview of our work and its implications for sustainable construction. Keep an eye on our progress as we delve further to uncover the potential and challenges of this innovative approach and look out for our publications to gain a deeper understanding of the impact and scope of our project.


November 13, 2023
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Matias Rokio, Tampere University – 13 November 2023

My name is Matias Rokio, and for the year 2023, I’ve been doing research in ReCreate. My background is in industrial engineering and management, and I have been studying since 2017 at Tampere University. I graduated with an M.Sc in June 2023 and wrote my Master’s thesis on resilience in Finnish health care with an emphasis on information asymmetries. My minor in sustainable production steered me towards the areas of sustainability and circular economy, which I feel should receive a lot of attention in research in varied fields. Currently, I am in the process of applying for a doctoral position at Tampere University, which I will hopefully receive sometime during this year. In my personal life, along with my work as a researcher, I am a semi-professional drummer in a few different groups and doing all kinds of session work for different artists.

Currently, I am working at Tampere University in a CROPS research group, which collaborates with ReCreate’s WP7 through my research. According to WP7 objectives, the work package aims to accelerate the development of a scalable and profitable business model for reused precast concrete components in different environments. Especially within the construction industry, the circular economy has tremendous potential in driving a transition towards more sustainable practises, as concrete manufacturing alone generates around 4-8% of the world’s CO2 emissions.

My research article on ReCreate approaches the concrete element reuse from project management’s perspective, with an aim to unveil how applying circular economy principles in projects affects the inter-organisational collaboration and value creation in the project front-end. In my research, the front-end spans the planning phase of the Finnish country pilot, where the deconstruction of an office building in Tampere city centre and the subsequent phases to it were planned in detail. The purpose of the research is to enrich the discussion around sustainable project management and showcase a project where sustainability is promoted through circular economy practises. Also, the circular economy discussion, despite its trending and important nature, is currently still lacking in the project management context, which makes the research interesting for project management scholars.

In the research, we found out that when a construction project is based on the reuse principle, the front-end phase requires more actors to collaborate in the project planning and some actors are required to take on new tasks in the project. For example, a structural engineering company was an integral part of the deconstruction planning of the building, whereas, in a conventional demolition project, the demolition company does the planning by themselves. It is also evident that there are several new business opportunities for the actors involved that could build new services and marketplaces around the reusable concrete elements and reach new customers through collaboration in the project. Currently, several barriers to the wider adoption of concrete elements reuse still remain, as manufacturing new concrete elements is relatively cheap whilst detaching, and refurbishing the old elements is somewhat time-consuming, and a regulative incentive for adopting the reuse principle is lacking.


November 10, 2023
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Viktoria Arnold, researcher at BTU Cottbus – Senftenberg, Germany

The assessment of the sustainability of buildings has been increasing rapidly in recent years. This is not only related to the international goals of the United Nations, which are set out in Agenda 2030[1] and include global ecological, economic and socio-cultural aspects in the building sector (SDG 11[2], 12[3] and 13[4]). It is also linked not only, but in large part, to the national goals of the United Nations, which each country has set for itself. Germany, for example, has set a goal of achieving greenhouse gas neutrality in its building stock by 2050[5]. Different countries have different requirement methods. Some countries have made it mandatory to submit a so-called Climate Declaration for future building during the approval phase and to comply with certain limits for greenhouse gas emissions, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland. Other countries, such as Germany, subsidise climate-friendly construction and renovation measures. Some builder-owners are just interested in building sustainably and climate-friendly and want to know what design decisions, building products and materials have what impact on the environment. And what contribution the building as a whole makes to resource and climate protection during its entire life cycle. To find this out, many sustainability assessment systems for buildings are used, which have LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) as one of the most important criteria. The basis for LCA is the EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) based on ISO 14025 and EN 15804 for the different building products and materials. The more building products and materials have an EPD, the more accurate the calculation of the environmental impact of a building. This will greatly assist the builder-owner when deciding on certain construction and architectural solutions, and what contribution the building as a whole makes to resource and climate protection throughout its complete life cycle.

I am doing my doctorate at BTU on sustainability assessment of single-family houses. For such buildings, which are nowadays a luxury from a climatic point of view, such an assessment is particularly important.

In the ReCreate project, our German Cluster is particularly responsible for work package 6 “Energy and Climate”, which aims to evaluate the environmental and economic impacts (LCA and LCC (Life Cycle Costing)) of the reuse of precast concrete elements. Our major objective is to produce one or more EPDs for the precast concrete elements (ceiling, exterior and interior wall) suitable for reuse. This will enable LCA for new buildings with the reused elements and distinguish such resource and climate-friendly projects from others. Several previous research projects led by Prof. Angelika Mettke[6] have shown that the reuse of concrete building elements can significantly reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption in the product phase by up to 93-98% compared to new production[7].

We notice again and again in our research that reuse can only be possible if the parts are still considered in the installed condition and the careful disassembly is carried out by an experienced company in the best case. Recently, the new DIN SPEC 91484[8] has been published, which is the basis for evaluating the high-quality connection potential for building products before demolition and renovation works where Prof. Mettke has been involved. Another prerequisite for successful reuse is that the building documents are available and, if possible, up to date. This is rarely the case with existing industrially constructed buildings that are up for deconstruction. That is why today’s initiative on the building resource passport is very important, where all building materials and products used, as well as their quality and recyclability, are recorded and kept up to date. It is also important to look now at what can be used to build more sustainable buildings so that the new building can be reused later at the end of its life cycle.

I am asking all these research questions in my doctoral thesis because it is still not so far that one comes to the idea of building a single-family house from used precast concrete elements.

[1] Sustainable Development Goals

[2] SDG 11 Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

[3] SDG 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

[4] SDG 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

[5] Deutsche Nachhaltigkeitsstrategie Weiterentwicklung 2021, p. 103

[6] Structural Recycling Unit, Faculty 2 of Environment and Natural Sciences, BTU Cottbus – Senftenberg

[7] Mettke, A. (2010). Material- und Produktrecycling – am Beispiel von Plattenbauten. Zusammenfassende Arbeit von 66 eigenen Veröffentlichungen, Cottbus, Techn. Univ., Habil.-Schr. p. 235–243

[8] DIN SPEC 91484:2023-09 “Procedures for recording building products as a basis for evaluations of connection use potential prior to demolition and renovation work.”


September 27, 2023
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Arlind Dervishaj, architect and doctoral researcher at KTH Royal Institute of Technology

The use of digital tools for the design of buildings has become a common practice for architects and engineers alike, commonly referred under the umbrella term digital design. The range of digital tools at our disposal and their utilization has been growing, with reference to Building Information Modelling (BIM), environmental design tools, computational design plugins, and optimization algorithms. Additionally, 3D printing, robotic fabrication, virtual reality, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming more commonplace not only in research environments but also with practical applications within the architecture and engineering fields. Despite these advancements that have made it easier to design and assess the sustainability of projects, buildings remain a major contributor to climate change, responsible for 37% of global carbon emissions, half of all extracted raw materials, and waste generation due to construction and demolition activities. In light of these challenges, the circular economy concept presents a promising solution, with digital technologies playing a crucial role as enablers.  The importance of reevaluating the relationship between design and the digital became the focus of the 41st eCAADe (Education and Research in Computer-Aided Architectural Design in Europe) conference hosted at TU Graz under the theme Digital Design Reconsidered.

At eCAADe 2023, I presented a refereed paper, with co-authors Arianna Fonsati, José Hernández Vargas, and prof. Kjartan Gudmundsson [1]. The paper is titled Modelling Precast Concrete for a Circular Economy in the Built Environment with subtitle Level of Information Need guidelines for digital design and collaboration. This was also the first presentation in the eCAADe session on BIM & Sustainability. I kicked off my presentation by captivating the audience with striking examples of AI-generated buildings crafted from reclaimed concrete elements, setting the stage for an important question to follow.

Can we design buildings with reused elements simply with a text prompt and AI or is there more to consider?

Before the design process, the practice of reuse involves a series of essential steps, which encompass, among other things, the identification of suitable buildings and components for reuse, the process of deconstruction, the management of storage, and the implementation of quality assurance measures. Reliable and up-to-date information is crucial in supporting designers and stakeholders in making decisions for circular construction. Various data capture methods for buildings exist to facilitate their identification and potential reuse. These methods encompass technologies such as laser scanning, photogrammetry, scan-to-BIM workflows, and machine learning algorithms. Examples of the latter include identifying materials and components at urban and building scales, and some even automate the creation of 3D models from point clouds.

Nevertheless, a substantial gap remains within the literature with relevance for practice concerning the specifics of required data and the process of sharing and requesting information to enable reuse and collaboration of different parties. To address this challenge, we developed a set of digital reuse guidelines tailored specifically for precast concrete. These guidelines are based on the Level of Information Need (LOIN) standard EN 17412-1:2020 [2], and are informed by our experience in the ReCreate project, which includes construction pilots conducted in Sweden (Swedish pilot at the H22 City Expo) and in partner countries. Our study not only embraces the EN 17412 standard but also takes it a step further by extending its applicability for digital reuse in circular construction. These guidelines are designed to enhance the reliability of information across the reuse process and construction cycles. They introduce innovative concepts, such as the creation of digital templates that evolve into digital twins of reused precast elements. Furthermore, they can be used for specifying information requirements for reused as well as for newly produced elements. Additionally, as part of our comprehensive approach, we have included a comparison of the geometrical modelling aspects of LOIN in two widely used CAD and BIM software platforms, Rhino and Revit.

Currently, our ongoing research within the ReCreate project continues to explore and expand upon various aspects that can relate to the LOIN framework. As an example, another recent paper authored by me, José, and Kjartan was presented at the 2023 EC3 & 40th CIB W78 conference in Crete, Greece [3]. This paper explores the timely theme of tracking and tracing building elements, where more background information can be found in the literature [4], [5]. We present a novel digital workflow for modelling various tracking tags in the BIM model such as QR codes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and Bluetooth. Moreover, we present promising results from laboratory tests that, arguably for the first time, explore the utilization of Near Field Communication (NFC), which is a subset of RFID, and its integration with Bluetooth technology.

More facets on the topic of reuse are being investigated within ReCreate that will further demonstrate the applicability and potential of digital reuse in creating a circular built environment. Our research encompasses a wide spectrum of considerations, including data capture and sharing methods, material passports, destructive and non-destructive testing of concrete structures, and innovations in the design processes. These ongoing efforts aim to advance sustainability and circularity in the built environment through the integration of digital technologies.

References:

[1] A. Dervishaj, A. Fonsati, J. Hernández Vargas, and K. Gudmundsson, “Modelling Precast Concrete for a Circular Economy in the Built Environment,” in Digital Design Reconsidered – Proceedings of the 41st Conference on Education and Research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe (eCAADe 2023), W. Dokonal, Hirschberg Urs, and G. Wurzer, Eds., Graz: eCAADe, TU Graz, Sep. 2023, pp. 177–186. doi: 10.52842/conf.ecaade.2023.2.177.

[2] European Committee for Standardization (CEN), “Building Information Modelling – Level of Information Need – Part 1: Concepts and principles (EN 17412-1:2020),” 2020 Accessed: May 18, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.sis.se/en/produkter/standardization/technical-drawings/construction-drawings/ss-en-17412-12020/

[3] A. Dervishaj, J. Hernández Vargas, and K. Gudmundsson, “Enabling reuse of prefabricated concrete components through multiple tracking technologies and digital twins,” in European Conference on Computing in Construction and the 40th International CIB W78 Conference, Heraklion: European Council on Computing in Construction, Jul. 2023, pp. 1–8. doi: 10.35490/EC3.2023.220.

[4] M. Jansen et al., “Current approaches to the digital product passport for a circular economy: an overview of projects and initiatives,” vol. 198, 2022, doi: 10.48506/OPUS-8042.

[5] European Commission, “Transition pathway for Construction.” Accessed: Mar. 17, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/53854


September 14, 2023
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Using object-oriented programming to bridge the gap between architecture and structural engineering in a circular design.

Fred Mudge, Eindhoven University of Technology – 14 September 2023

Over the past several decades, the construction industry has been responsible for large portions of annual global CO2 emissions and overall material usage. To counteract this, the ReCreate project aims to establish a circular value chain for precast concrete buildings – a switch which could offer massive improvements to the industry’s sustainability by keeping materials in use for longer, thereby preserving the value contained in the existing building stock and reducing the need for new materials. This requires research and development across the entire reuse process, from deconstruction, transport and logistics, quality control, design and planning of new buildings up to reassembly in a new location and for a new purpose.

As a doctoral researcher at TU Eindhoven, my work focuses on the topic of design within the above context and aims to assist architects and engineers to design circular buildings, by developing a software application which provides functionality specifically for this task.

In a traditional building design workflow, the architect normally produces a design based on relatively few constraints. A structural engineer reviews the design and presents reinforcements to ensure that the structure is sufficiently robust and stable. After all designs have been finalized, construction can commence and (for precast systems) elements are manufactured that match the designs. The design process for reused elements is fundamentally different because the geometric and structural attributes of the elements are already fixed at the start of the design process. The challenge for a designer is therefore to select and arrange elements into a spatially effective building structure considering their respective geometries. Each addition or change to this arrangement affects the distribution of forces through the structure. The forces exerted on each element should therefore be calculated continuously and compared to its relevant structural capacities (axial force, bending moment etc.) to ensure no element is loaded past a safe limit.

The design application addresses both challenges mentioned above. It includes a feature for browsing through a library (database) of previously used building components that are available for reuse. A user can then select and import desired elements directly into a 3D building information modelling (BIM) environment and place them in a new design assembly. Furthermore, automatic structural load calculation methods using finite element methods (FEM) are built into the application and can be performed on-demand, to identify any elements exerted past their capacities. Lastly, environmental benefit is quantified and enhanced by automatic embodied carbon calculation, considering factors such as the distance of an element from the construction site and the amount of CO2 required to get it into its new position.

Considering the novelty of reusing concrete building components, the first step to developing the application was to create a so-called “object model” for creating and storing digital representations of physical building elements. This requires a sound understanding of the parameters that describe all relevant aspects (geometric, structural etc.) of the various types of elements (beams, columns, wall panels, slabs etc.). These parameters, element types and how they interact and relate to each other also help define the database schema for storing element information (i.e., the element library). A trial database was created and populated with element data from a recently completed deconstruction project – Prinsenhof A in Arnhem, the Netherlands.

A user can browse through a library of elements, import and position them in a Revit model to make up a new building design.

Subsequently, the focus shifted to developing algorithms for automatically connecting elements within the model, based on their relative locations, and for calculating structural forces and moments within all elements, based on expected floor loadings and the anticipated “load paths” that eventually take all forces down to the building’s foundations. Lastly, a framework for calculating the environmental impact resulting from using new and reused precast concrete building components will be developed and added to the application, to ensure that an environmental benefit is achieved for each reuse design, compared to a design consisting of newly manufactured elements.

Currently, the design application is developed as an add-on for Autodesk Revit. New building designs are therefore in the form of a Revit (.rvt) model, which can be easily converted to a more universal format such as Industry Foundation Class (.ifc). The design application is currently still under development, with a “proof of concept” prototype planned for the end of 2023.





EU FUNDING

“This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 958200”.

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