Circular solutions for the construction sector will be tested in Barcelona under a UPC-led European project

Date: 03.10.2023.

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC) leads a European consortium made up of 28 partners from 8 countries aiming to boost the uptake of circular integrated solutions in construction value chains. With this in mind, they have conceived CIRC-BOOST, a four-year project funded by the Horizon Europe programme. The project is led by professors Albert de la Fuente and Nikola Tosic, who are affiliated with the UPC’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Barcelona School of Civil Engineering (ETSECCPB). They also conduct research at Concrete Sustainability and Smart Structures (C3S), as part of the UPC’s Construction Engineering (EC) consolidated research group.

The consortium will deploy five pilot projects in Barcelona (Spain), Paris (France), Belgrade (Serbia), Vesterålen (Norway) and Prague (Czech Republic). It aims to demonstrate, on a large scale, novel and integrated solutions for demolition, construction waste processing, management, and valorisation in new products.

The pilots include the selective demolition of the old Mercedes-Benz factory for the construction of Spain’s first ecodistrict and the creation of a digital and physical platform to optimise construction waste processing in the infrastructure works for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The platform will also be used to manage and reuse waste from the works of the Grand Paris Express, the largest infrastructure currently under construction in Europe.

Additionally, a pilot house will be built with steel, concrete, and recycled rubber in Belgrade. In Vesterålen, materials from the selective demolition of two buildings and steel from fishing industry containers will be used to build the Gaia Vesterålen container museum in the port of Sortland. Last but not least, an apartment block will be built on an old, abandoned factory in Prague. All these works will solely rely on reused and recycled materials.

While monitoring the circular solutions tested in these pilot constructions, several parameters will be measured to evaluate the technologies. All this information will be fed into a databank that integrates tools and recommendations for future constructions for the purpose of boosting these technologies’ business potential. With this in mind, the project will offer training to construction and design companies wishing to adopt these solutions.

In addition to the Construction Engineering research group, the project also features the UPC spin-off Smart Engineering and the Spanish companies Acciona Construcció and Control Demeter. The other partners are based in France, Serbia, Norway, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, and Greece.

The pilot in Spain: laMercedes

In 1951, the Mercedes-Benz complex was designed as an aircraft engine factory in a building that is now part of Barcelona’s industrial heritage. It ceased operation in 2007. Now, Conren Tramway, in collaboration with the Batlleiroig architecture company, has planned the first large sustainable

district in Spain in this area between the districts of Sant Andreu del Palomar and Bon Pastor, under an agreement with the Barcelona City Council. It is a car-free urban space of 185,000 sqm, conceived as a design and innovation hub with offices, public services, shops, housing, green spaces and leisure, cultural and sport facilities. laMercedes will be develop by recycling all the buildings of the old factory. The project won the Re-Use category of the WAFX award in the World Architecture Festival (WAF).

This part of the CIRC-BOOST project will be carried out by the EC research group. It will involve using digital twins to generate databanks of materials and other construction elements, and techniques for soil remediation and reuse. In addition, based on sustainability criteria, selective demolition will be carried out to maximise the reuse of recovered materials. Finally, during the construction stage, low-cost wireless sensors, and NFC (near-field communication) tags will be used for the traceability of recovered materials and elements.

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