Beyond recycling: Why reuse is vital for resilience and regeneration

Challenging traditional ways of material sourcing by putting the reuse of building elements at the forefront of construction

Brandon Byers presents how upstream crowd-sourcing of data from our built environment can enable the reuse of building elements, and further result in better community resilience to build more resource-efficiently in both steady-state urban development and post-hazard reconstruction.

Last updated: June 07, 2023 Zurich, Switzerland

By Brandon Byers, Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture, ETH Zurich

Watch this 10-minute video and reply to the poll below - Brandon would appreciate your feedback!

Digital transformation for circular construction

Brandon Byers is a Doctoral researcher at the Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture at ETH Zurich. He illustrates the benefits of using digital inventory of the materials and design of existing buildings prior to their demolition to build a picture of the material available for reuse. 

He argues that reuse is advantageous over recycling by minimizing material re-processing time and energy costs, both particularly critical resources in urban recovery. Further, it can help to regenerate our communities during disaster recovery efforts by engaging local resources with circular economy practices. Therefore, "reuse" is also a strategy for post-disaster resilience facilitated through local participation and data democratization.

If we can “crowd source” and aggregate information about the built environment, this provides opportunities for more efficient reuse (and recycling) as materials transition from one use to another within the building fabric. 

The Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture (CEA) is led by Prof Dr Catherine De Wolf and develops research on matching reused architectural materials and projects through digitalization for circularity.

Holcim Foundation Sounding Board

Brandon Byers presented how reuse of building elements is vital for resilience and regeneration in the building sector at the first Holcim Foundation Sounding Board. The Sounding Board enables built environment innovators to explore their ideas with industry-leading peers. Start-ups, academics, researchers, and architects can utilize the agile platform to receive peer feedback on their novel ideas that challenge conventional building practices.