Let's Go Circular!

Bewustzijn creëren over bestaande en nieuwe methoden, technieken en projecten ten behoeve van circulariteit in de gebouwde omgeving: dat was het doel van de conferentie ‘Let’s Go Circular’, die op 9 oktober in het Vorhoelzer Forum in München plaatsvond. Met inspirerende presentaties en veel uitwisseling tijdens de receptie was het evenement een uitstekend startpunt voor verdere samenwerking tussen Nederland en Duitsland op dit thema.

Omdat de conferentie in het Engels plaatsvond, volgt het verslag in de Engelse taal.

Let’s Go Circular was organized by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Munich in cooperation with the Technical Universities of Munich and Delft.

A recent study conducted by Bayern Innovativ showed that there are lots of opportunities in Southern Germany, specifically Bavaria, for circularity in the built environment. The current way of building construction is very energy consuming and often not sustainable in the long run. In order to change this, a ‘new’ look at the use of materials, building techniques, but also tender procedures is required. The Dutch government has set itself the target to have a completely circular economy by 2050. More and more initiatives throughout the Netherlands are popping up with organizations such as Holland Circular Hotspot. Ministries, regional governments, but also large companies are looking for ways to make current production systems more circular. What can Dutch and German stakeholders learn from one another? And how can we connect our initiatives to jointly work towards more a more circular approach to building and construction? These were the initial questions of this conference.

Thomas Rau

About 100 participants, including architects, students, companies, NGO’s and representatives from governments had gathered when architect and visionary Thomas Rau, who was born in Germany but is currently based in Amsterdam kicked off the conference. Rau painted an overview of the system we are currently in. Today, we make use of materials and aim to make production methods more efficient under the banner of ‘sustainability’. But this is not the final solution, for it doesn’t address the limited amount of raw materials. Therefore, Rau proposes we should look at products as if they were a service: Instead of asking a light bulb producing company to make you a lightbulb, ask them to provide you with light instead. This also means the producer has to perceive materials in a different way. Applied to the built environment, Rau has developed a system called “Madaster”, with which one can track and monitor the amount of certain materials used in a building, that may be reused and recycled. Thomas Rau and Sabine Oberhuber wrote about this concept in their book “Material Matters”.

Mathias Lehner, Juan Azcarate-Aguerre, Wytze Kuijper & Thomas Rau

After this inspiring keynote speech, three experts from The Netherlands shared practical examples of circularity in the built environment in their home country. Wytze Kuijper introduced Cirkelstad, an open platform where civil servants, builders and designers meet to create a city with no waste. Best practices are shown on their website. Mathias Lehner of the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA) presented BNA’s Circular Manifesto, with which the institute encourages architects to responsibly use materials when designing buildings. Juan Azcarate-Aguerre (TU Delft) addressed some research projects the Faculty of Building Products Innovation is working on. In the Building Product Development Lab, digitization helps to better plan the use of materials. The aim of the REHAB project is to develop circular renovation solutions for late post war housing.

The formal part of the conference ended with a discussion amongst the speakers moderated by Frank Kaltenbach. Everyone agreed that circularity is like a top-class sport: it requires continuous work, attention and training in order to get the current systems changed.

During a networking session, the speakers and their organizations, but also the Bavarian research organization (BayFor), Bayern Innovativ, EPEA GmbH - Part of Drees & Sommer, National Sustainability Institute and their GSES System, REKO B.V., Rijkswaterstaat, Terra Institute and TUM.Wood presented their work and vision with the help of a poster. Participants and guests had plenty of opportunity to exchange ideas enjoying some drinks and snacks.

Circularity may indeed be a top sport. We at the consulate general are ready to run the extra mile to connect Southern German and Dutch companies, knowledge institutes, organizations and governments to enhance cooperation for circularity in the built environment!