The construction industry accounts for the majority of the consumption of materials and for almost one third of all waste. The vast majority of the materials used in construction cannot be reused or recycled; since they cannot be disassembled, after they have served their purpose they are reduced to debris.
In a world that is struggling to save resources, Elval Colour aims to create a better living environment without halting progress in its field.
Most buildings are created as durable solutions for temporary needs. During the 50 to 100 years that a building is expected to stay still, everything else keeps moving – user requirements, standards of life, design principles and respective regulations adjust to the demands of the world. This means that material-wise, facades essentially reach the end of their functional and economic service life long before they are outdated.
As the circular economy is a growing trend in several industries, it is about time aspects were applied in the construction sector. Aiming to reduce waste, the principles of circular economy have to be applied in several stages of the construction industry in order to successfully switch from a linear model of production to a circular one.
In a circular system, products are not designed from scratch but redesigned to reflect the new demands. If this is to be applied into facade design, material manufacturers, contractors, architects and demolishers are going to have to reshape their way of thinking and turn to more sustainable solutions.
Elval Colour focuses on innovation and believes that, when designing a building, it is crucial for it to be involved before the construction begins. By discussing the project earlier in the process, Elval Colour’s clients discover a variety of environmentally friendly options such as energy-saving coatings and minimisation of material wastage. Furthermore, the company opts for facades that follow the principles of a circular model – easy to deconstruct, adaptable and well documented.
A typical facade consists of a number of layers, such as paint, mineral finish, adhesive primer, gypsum, glass reinforcement mesh, fastening plugs, bricks and mortar, and insulation, to name a few.
These layers create a solid interface that is impossible to separate without completely destroying the facade. In circular construction, materials should be recovered and, to avoid material wastage, they have to be recovered without major damage.
Easy deconstruction enables the reuse of the whole facade or individual components and materials. To efficiently do so, dry and mechanic connections are preferred over wet and chemical connections because, along with easier disassembly, they also allow the recovery of components.
This reversibility can also facilitate maintenance and repair. Other options include the incorporation of suspended supports and returning the materials to the manufacturer, either to upgrade or recycle them.
Adaptability and evolution
In a world that keeps reimagining itself, buildings seem to form a universal constant. Change of ownership or needs may require a building to redefine its internal spaces, but the shell will often remain intact. Therefore, making the buildings and the facades adaptable and reusable is vital.
When the facade needs to change, the sustainable approach is either to upgrade it or to rebuild it using recyclable and upcycled components. To do so, the facade has to be adaptable in every aspect.
This requires facade substructure systems that are reusable, can sustain the effect of time, do not corrode and have the excess load capacity needed for different cladding materials.
Moreover, the cladding material should be easy to handle and have minimal need for maintenance. To prolong the use of the materials, Elval Colour suggests aluminium-based products that can withstand different weather conditions.
Despite the application of the suggested methods and approaches for the circular economy, Elval Colour aims to keep its expectations realistic. There are several parameters that might limit the efficiency of the circular economy in facade design and construction.
Firstly, the company must bear in mind the age of a facade. As a building could have been built more than 50 years ago, modern building regulations could limit the reuse of components – for example, certain materials have been proven dangerous for health or the environment. Additionally, the regulations might require materials that have increased load capacity or different properties towards energy dissipation.
Company’s must also consider that certain popular materials, such as plasterboard, most rubbers and laminated glass, do not yet have an economic recycling or separation method.
This does not necessarily mean that they should not be used in Elval Colour’s solutions; the company believes that it needs to push for further research on this subject instead.
Finally, the high temperatures that occur due to the climate crisis might also prohibit certain types of facades to be reused in the climatic zone that they were initially used.
Elval Colour provides the aluminium composite panel etalbond, which is an ideal cladding material for a facade designed for circular construction. It is fully recyclable and its coatings are long lasting. Finishes include stone and ceramic effects, or metallic shades like anodised imitation – options that reduce both the weight and the cost of the facade. The panels are easy to handle and remove from the assembly, while they can also be easily upgraded against fire.
Recyclability can also be achieved by specialist companies that either segregate or shred and separate the different larger pieces that comprise the aluminium composite panel. Add to that the full traceability of the product and it has now definitively become the cladding material for the facade of the future.