Circular façades and extensions for social housing can prolong the life of building components and materials.

The aim of a circular economy is to use less material, to use components for longer, and to close the waste loop for materials and products through remanufacture and reuse. One way to apply these ideas to housing includes replacing building components such as façades, kitchens, and bathrooms with modular, circular components. But how can circular components be integrated into a large amount of residential buildings?

Retrofitting social housing with circular components 
In addition to the need for circular building materials and components, many homes in the Netherlands also need to be made more energy-efficient. The REHAB project tested and developed two circular building components that connect the energy transition with the circular economy.  Housing associations own 30% of the Dutch housing stock and have substantial interest in implementing principles of the circular economy. So teaming up with Amsterdam housing associations and their contractors to test the components formed a logical primary target group. 

A bottom-up approach to circular buildings 
First, the team developed a “circular skin” to insulate façades with a sustainable design, based on extendible modules that makes it possible to renovate in different cycles, so dwellings can be made energy neutral step by step. Second, a “circular extension” was tested for how to add extra space to a home, using standardized modules made from reclaimed and recycled materials. Such façades and extensions would be integrated into housing association properties over time, retrofitted during maintenance and renovation. 

Circular components advance the energy transition 
The testing demonstrated how we can make a large portion of the housing stock circular. After the project, 44 dwellings on Kuilsenhofweg were renovated with the first circular extensions. The cladding in the extension is made from wood reclaimed during the property’s renovation. Using circular components in practice speeds up the energy transition with circular designs for building components based on modules that are easy to disassemble, to replace, and to recycle.  Participating scientists, housing associations, and contractors shared their knowledge and lessons learned in the practice handbook Circulair Renoveren Woningcorporaties, which can be downloaded for free and circulates in the housing sector. 

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Header image: Second Product facade+active plints.jpg