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Reuse initiatives point to future challenges

The Swedish construction industry has come a long way regarding recycling, and now the focus is increasingly turning towards reuse and circular construction. In connection with demolition work at Kämnärsrätten, AF Bostäder has carried out several successful projects for the reuse of fixtures and fittings. The company notes that reuse on a larger scale requires new knowledge, new networks and far-reaching changes in the sector.

The construction and property sector accounts for a large part of the material use in society. According to the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, the construction sector produces 35 per cent of all the waste in the EU.  

“In Sweden, the construction industry is good at recycling,” says Martin Jacobsson, Property Development Manager at AF Bostäder. “Contractors have both legal requirements and financial incentives to recycle as much as possible, and at demolition sites everything is sorted from windows and bricks to wood, metal and landfill waste before it’s taken away.”  

At Kämnärsrätten, AF Bostäder is implementing one of Sweden’s biggest investments in long-term sustainable student housing. The plans include six new quarters where old “four-leaf clover” buildings, which were originally built as a temporary solution for a housing shortage, are being gradually replaced by a new and sustainable city district with housing for twice as many students and a halving of energy consumption.  

“In connection with the demolition of the four-leaf clover buildings we have, in addition to the usual category sorting, implemented several successful reuse initiatives,” says Martin Jacobsson. “For example, windows have been kept for an orangery in the new quarter, Rhodos. We have also earmarked exterior doors for use as provisional doors in new construction projects. Previously, the builders have had to construct temporary protection for each site, but real doors withstand being hung several times and can be stored until the next project. It saves both natural resources and money.”  

“We have also preserved everything from taps and sinks to tag readers for regular maintenance in our properties,” says Martin Jacobsson. “White goods in excellent condition have been used in the renovation of the Tomegap laundry room. In addition, our contractors have an agreement with a second-hand wholesaler who deals with selected parts from our demolition sites.”  

Despite the successful recent projects, AF Bostäder can note that reuse on a larger scale entails considerable challenges. Today’s contractors use a just-in-time system that is not adapted for circular construction.  

“If we design a building today and the building is to be constructed in two years’ time, the various parts, such as windows, are manufactured just before they are to be delivered to the construction site,” says Martin Jacobsson. “Matching the requirements of architects and builders with a range of circular building materials in a corresponding way, in the right place at the right time, is still a major challenge and would entail, among other things, enormous warehousing capacity. Equally, it can be difficult to find materials with the right characteristics or the right certifications. One example is that there were plans for old windows from our demolition site to be used by another property company in a construction project, but current building regulations and energy requirements unfortunately put a stop to it.”  

“It’s pleasing that interest in reuse is increasing. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has been tasked by the government with developing work on the transition to a circular economy in the construction sector, more and more actors are focusing on the issue and new networks are emerging. We very much want to be part of these developments and are open to finding collaborations and knowledge exchanges with different actors in the sector. This is essential if we are to succeed,” says Martin Jacobsson. 

Latest update June 9, 2023
Martin Jacobsson
Martin Jacobsson
Property Development Manager
046-19 14 62

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