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Re-using houses The recyclable building site of the future

When a house is demolished, much of the waste is put into a skip and then disposed of. At the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) near Zurich, an experiment is underway to build a new home using construction waste. (SRF,

Zurich architect Barbara Buser is tracking down construction waste she wants to re-use on a new building in Winterthur. Her employer, an architecture company called in situexternal link, is harvesting recyclable construction elements all of Switzerland.

Experts estimate that around that 75,000 tonnes of reusable parts become available in Switzerland every year. However, only around 10% of those are actually reused. Currently, it seems that for owners of properties up for demolition it does not pay to sell on construction parts.

EMPAexternal link is currently working on an Urban Mining and Recycling project to extract materials from a building at the end of its life cycle efficiently and economically and reuse them. For this purpose, EMPA has constructed a test apartment, using mineral rubble for a brick wall and insulating components made from mushrooms.

EMPA innovation manager Enrico Marchesi sees urban mining as the future of the construction industry. “We have no choice,” he says. “Our resources are waning. Some materials just won’t last forever."

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