When the waste of some makes the happiness of others

Every year, the construction industry sends 250 million tons of waste to the dumpster. The sector alone represents 70% of French annual waste production. In this context, solutions exist and new, virtuous and more responsible players are trying to impose a new paradigm.

When we are worried about the tons of waste that we cannot recover, those convinced of reuse aim to raise awareness by supporting new practices, the constructions of yesterday becoming the raw material for those of tomorrow.

Reuse, a solution as old as the world to meet the challenges of the future? Between public authorities, prime contractors and contracting authorities, digital marketplaces intend to carve out the lion's share.

From dumpster to online platforms

How to make money with garbage? This question, Sébastien Duprat and Lucile Hamon ask themselves. Everyday. One will call his answer Cycle Up, the other Backacia. Their common point? Having launched a digital platform dedicated to the recovery of waste from deconstruction sites.

Our primary desire is to put the circular economy back at the heart of an economic solution” comments Lucile, founder of Backacia, a purchase/sale platform dedicated to reuse.

Sébastien, founder of Cycle Up, wants to match a plethoric supply of available, reusable materials with demand. However, do not try to tell him that he is a precursor: " the construction world has always done this! The Gare de Lilles-Flandres, inaugurated in 1846, is none other than the former Gare du Nord, dismantled then reassembled stone by stone! »

Demolishers are TOP GUN in building engineering! »

Ecological, responsible and practical on paper, opaque and little used in practice. So that's the challenge: adapting reuse to today's construction. For Sébastien Duprat, the professionals on the front line are already showing the way. At the end of 2018, he organized a consultation as part of a deconstruction project in compliance with specifications facilitating reuse. Scavengers and demolishers do not jostle and the contractor finds himself faced with proposals at exorbitant prices. 

The message is clear: thank you but no thank you. What might have looked like a big pebble in the shoe quickly turned into additional cause for optimism: “ 12 months later, we return to the charge. Results: 3 proposals with a clear and detailed methodology, and without any added value! »

For the founder of Cycle-Up, beyond the demonstration of a great capacity to change practices, this adaptation is the sign that structured, the reuse sector can be beneficial to all: " Today, the cost of processing a ton of waste is around 200 euros! Everyone has a solution. » 

In this context, the argument in favor of reuse hits the mark: earning money rather than spending it. So much so that today, project owners and companies find together the balance that suits them.

How to calculate the share of reuse in your project?

Thanks to the weight of the building which is obtained during an “LCA” study (Life Cycle Analysis). Cycle-Up offers a searchable methodology by following this link

SOURCE: Eco-conception center https://www.eco-conception.fr/static/analyse-du-cycle-de-vie-acv.html

Architecture and diagnosis

Reuse has given meaning to my approach to architecture explains Morgan Moinet. He is an architect and head of Remix, a design office specializing in the issue, integrated into the agency “Encore Joyeux”. 

For him, the question revolves around several axes: study, assistance with project management and training. Because even more than usual, the architect must support each stage in the life of a building. Often beginning with his death: identifying a resource deposit is the first step. It is then necessary to proceed to a diagnosis resources » he explains.

Understand: identify the materials that will be extracted and their potential for reuse. In this area, the law has evolved and the new version of the waste diagnosis, now called “products, materials and waste” diagnosis, deployed since 1er January 2022, aims to facilitate the generalization of reuse.

Reuse on my project: where to start?

  • Be accompanied by a specialized design office during your first mission
  • Plan the storage of these materials
  • Be careful of theft: reused materials are often less well monitored than new materials but attract just as much covetousness. So be careful.
  • Anticipate the steps: a new material is ordered and then delivered. How to condition the materials, how to transport them and then store them? All this is anticipated.

Set the project clocks back on time

One pitfall remains: to make construction and deconstruction coincide. In this period of time, which can be counted in months or years, the platforms face the thorny issue of the availability of the raw material.

At Backacia, the teams strive to match schedules, so that a reusable material is available when it is transferable to the construction project.

At Cycle Up, we prefer to speak of “BAMB”. Behind this new acronym, the Building As a Material Bank. Understand: the use of a building, still on its feet, as so many materials available within 2 or 3 years.

The advantages: goodbye to guarding or storage costs, and no more risks of ending up with raw materials on your hands that no one wants.

Whose fault is it ?

If, at this stage, the architect can lend an attentive ear to the arguments of reuse, he will quickly oppose an additional layer of responsibilities on his shoulders which he will refuse, quite logically, out of hand. When the product is new, the manufacturer's liability protects it. But when it is no longer, who will the project owner turn to in the event of failure?

For Lucile Hamon, the solution is to exclude materials whose use implies a standard. Goodbye then the fire door which loses its PV at the same time as it comes off its hinges, and hello carpets and other coverings requiring no specific guarantee.

At Cycle Up, we draw inspiration from other sectors: " No one is surprised that you can insure a car bought second-hand. Why would it be any different for a brick? »

Just as the Unified Technical Documents (DTU) do not specify whether the materials to be used on a construction site must be new or not, the use of a market place specializing in reuse should not, for Sébastien Durat, change anything.

For Morgan Moinet, nothing is fixed and everything will be a question of adapting the sector. " Today, one of the main difficulties of reuse concerns inert materials. But some are opening up avenues. On concrete, tests are carried out on the cutting of large reusable sails. Why not produce pavers with this concrete? The possibilities are many. »


Read the book “Grey Matter”: consume more “gray matter” to consume less “raw materials”: one of the watchwords of this book which calls on collective intelligence to reconsider our use of matter in architecture. 14 tests, 13 interviews and 75 projects demonstrate the potential for reuse and the possibility of a new life for used materials in all building lots.

-> Order “Gray Matter”

The “materialsreemployment.com” blog: a site dedicated to news on the reuse of building materials in architecture. Administered by the design office REMIX, the site aims to disseminate the practices of players in the construction materials reuse sector to as many people as possible. It was created in early 2018 by Morgan Moinet – who is still the director of the publication today – in order to perpetuate, disseminate and extend the research of the “ Watch group_Reuse of building materials which now has more than 8,000 members.

-> Discover the blog

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