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Circular construction involves building in a way that not only addresses current needs but also considers future generations. It is an innovative and sustainable approach that reuses materials and resources, aiming to reduce waste and minimize ecological footprint. On this page, we will explain why we at NIDO firmly support circular construction and how we apply it in practice.

Curious about how we could help you build circularly?

Renewable building materials

To achieve true circular and future-proof construction, it is essential that the materials used are infinitely available with low CO2 emissions. Renewable building materials are indispensable for circular construction, produced from sustainable and renewable sources. These materials serve as alternatives to conventional building materials, often derived from fossil fuels and therefore non-renewable.

Renewable building materials are primarily biobased, such as wood, bamboo, hemp, flax, and fast-growing grasses, or partially biobased, like clay, a mixture of sediment and organic material. These materials share the ability to regenerate quickly or be reproducible within a reasonable timeframe without depleting natural resources or harming the environment.

Conventional building materials like cement, bricks, and steel are typically made from non-renewable raw materials, significantly impacting the environment. Extracting, processing, and transporting these materials require vast amounts of energy and result in significant CO2 emissions.

In contrast, renewable building materials are produced through less energy-intensive processes, with a lower carbon footprint. For example, trees and plants used for biobased materials can be sustainably grown and harvested, allowing replanting to replace the used material. Moreover, these biobased materials absorb CO2, storing it within the buildings. Read more about this in our biobased construction article. Recycled materials also reduce the need for new resources and lower the amount of waste sent to landfills.

At NIDO, we actively incorporate renewable building materials into our projects, contributing to reduced CO2 emissions and the preservation of natural resources. Additionally, these materials often possess excellent thermal and moisture-regulating properties, enhancing energy-efficient buildings with better indoor climates. For more information, read our article on breathable construction.

By maximizing the use of renewable building materials in our projects, we gain valuable experience, demonstrating the feasibility of truly sustainable construction. This approach propels us toward a greener future for the construction sector and the planet as a whole.

Reusable building materials

In addition to using renewable materials, it is crucial that materials remain reusable after a building’s lifecycle in order to achieve true true circular construction. This is why we focus on integrating as many reusable building materials into our projects as possible.

We also prefer to work with Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified products or suppliers. Cradle to Cradle is a concept focused on designing products and processes that generate no waste. Instead, they reuse materials, promoting a circular economy. We are pleased to see more suppliers offering take-back guarantees. This means that after a building’s demolition, the supplied building materials are returned for reuse or as raw materials for their production processes.

Apart from suppliers, we select more reusable alternatives at the product level. For example, when a metal finish is necessary, we often opt for zinc. Zinc is entirely recyclable without loss of quality. At the end of a zinc product’s lifespan, it can be recovered and reused to create new zinc products. This closed-loop system prevents waste and reduces the demand for new zinc ore and energy-intensive production processes. Recycling zinc requires significantly less energy than mining and refining new zinc ore, resulting in lower CO2 emissions and reduced environmental impact.

Additionally, the biobased materials we use at NIDO are highly reusable. These materials contain a considerable amount of energy, potentially useful in electricity production. It’s essential to note that the recycling of biobased materials is part of our strategy, minimizing their contribution to biomass incineration.

Our goal is to prevent downcycling of construction materials. For example, large CLT panels can be directly reused structurally after the lifespan of a building. Alternatively, high-quality beams, glulam, or planks can be produced. Smaller waste streams can be reused for items like finger-jointed frames or, ultimately, sheet materials.

The ultimate reusability of building materials and components depends on how materials are attached in a building and construction methods. It’s crucial to make advancements in this area now, as these buildings will only be harvested decades or even centuries from now. Read more about “dismantlable construction” below.

Dismantable building

At NIDO, we opt to construct as dismantlable as possible. This means that structures and components are designed in a way that they can be ‘deconstructed’ after the life span of a building. This often involves for joints and connections that we use so-called ‘mechanical fastenings’ such as bolts, screws, and clamps.

This contrasts with chemical fixing methods like cement or glue, which form permanent and difficult-to-remove connections, merging various building materials into one unusable whole. These are known as ‘wet’ construction methods. Wet construction methods often involve long drying times and emit environmentally harmful substances.

Dismantlable methods, also known as dry construction methods, assemble structures using screws, bolts, and other mechanical connections. The beauty of building with CLT is its exceptional suitability for these mechanical connections. Thus, the entire structure can be easily disassembled after the lifespan of a dwelling. At NIDO, we consider it crucial to start this now, knowing that the ‘harvest’ of buildings will take place over many decades or even centuries.

Beyond these idealistic considerations, dry construction at NIDO is often faster and more efficient due to the absence of long drying periods. Additionally, certain components can be more easily modified afterward, which is highly beneficial for the eventual occupants/users of a property when they seek modifications. Below is an illustration of a dry construction floor system, demonstrating how adjustments to the piping beneath the floor could be more straightforward compared to a fully poured floor.

For more information on this type of flooring, refer to our article on acoustics in timber construction.

Waste reduction

By reusing, recycling, and upcycling materials, the amount of construction waste is naturally reduced significantly over the entire lifespan of a building. At NIDO, we also choose a construction method that minimizes waste during the construction phase itself.

We extensively work with prefabricated elements, which are essentially delivered ready-made to the construction site, requiring only assembly without additional on-site losses from cutting. During the design and engineering of our CLT buildings, we create a ‘digital twin.’ In this digital twin, the house is virtually built in 3D, solely in a digital environment. This means that for finishing touches required on-site, we can more accurately estimate the necessary materials, ordering custom-fit materials to minimize waste and cutting losses.

This approach doesn’t just offer idealistic advantages: by focusing on 3D modeling and waste reduction, at NIDO, we save on failure and waste costs, increasing the efficiency of our construction process.

Increased (residual) value

It’s evident by now that circular construction leads to greater value for both people and the planet. Circularly built buildings often maintain a higher residual value than traditional buildings.

By utilizing high-quality, reusable materials and dismantlable construction methods at NIDO, our buildings retain more of their value over time. The residual value at the end of a building’s lifespan is increasingly being considered and factored into initial investments for new construction plans, making circular construction projects even more appealing.