Adaptable building is the key to circular construction. Decarbonising our future will involve designing structures which can be disassembled and repurposed elsewhere, components which can be remade to give a new lease of life, and products which can be reinvented into new projects entirely.

The construction sector is in the process of turning towards new ways of designing and building which balance expansion and growth, with the responsible use of raw materials, labour and resources. As it begins to integrate circular economics throughout the supply chain, questions are being asked as to how to keep components in use for longer, how to make them easy to repurpose, and moreover,­ how to keep valuable resources in a cycle of constant use in a way that is economically viable.

Galvanizers Association, alongside our European counterparts, EGGA, have recently produced a guide to sustainable construction. A copy is available here. It contains examples of where the economics of remaking and repurposing have been studied. It goes into detail about the CO2 savings of remaking as a circular concept, and the impact that remaking components can have on profitability and cost efficiency.

One such case study is a recent project in Holland, under the Dutch Directorate – General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat), which implemented both the direct reuse and the regalvanizing and reuse of highway safety barriers. The department put the whole supply and use of guard rails under the circular economy microscope. The savings were significant:

  • 40% reduction in environmental costs
  • 70% reduction in CO2 emissions
  • 10% reduction in costs

Calculations from another regalvanizing study by CE Delft, showed a simple procedure like this could save 26 ktonnes of CO2, equal to more than 8.3 million car kilometres.  Imagine what could be achieved if this approach was applied to the wider built environment?

From a galvanized steel perspective, the potential for remaking of this kind, alongside repurposing is extensive. Batch galvanized steel is ubiquitous throughout the built environment and has a long initial lifecycle. When the primary lifecycle is complete, there are many appropriate sustainable options.

Galvanized steel can be repurposed as part of entire structures, as in the case of Les Glòries in Barcelona by architects Peris + Toral.  The structure, which was designed with reuse or repurposing as part of the initial concept. It has been used as a temporary information point for four years and is currently being repurposed in its entirety by the architects, as a youth centre in another part of the city.

arup please be seated

Please Be Seated was comprised of timber sourced from reclaimed scaffolding planks and galvanized steel scaffolding poles. Image © Mark Cocksedge.

Galvanizers Association first became aware of Please Be Seated when it was entered into our annual galvanizing awards. A collaboration between Arup and British designer, Paul Cocksedge, to transform Finsbury Avenue Square, Please Be Seated was part of the annual London Design Festival. A unique installation, it uses timber sourced from reclaimed scaffolding planks and galvanized steel scaffolding poles to bring focus to the reuse and repurpose of construction waste. Having been moved from London’s Broadgate, there are plans to re-erect the installation in a new location.

As a versatile, tried and tested material with a long initial life cycle, galvanized steel can make a significant contribution in the move towards circular construction. Whilst the reuse of construction materials and built structures is not yet automatic, galvanized steel is amongst a portfolio of potential circular solutions, ready to play their part.

For more information, visit Repurposing and Refurbishing Galvanized Steel
The guide, Galvanized Steel and Sustainable Construction: Solutions for a Circular Economy, is available as a download or in a printed format

Posted by Grace on 29th July 2021

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