The circular renovation of buildings is part of the Werkspoorkwartier project, which aims to develop this inner industrial area into a creative and circular are
The overall aim of the project is to regenerate the inner industrial area Werkspoorkwartier in Utrecht. This has to lead to more business space and more jobs, and thereby contributes to more employment opportunities. Specifically the project focusses on circular developments and thereby aims to contribute to an acceleration of a circular economy. The circular renovation of buildings is part of this project, in this case the renovation of buildings is seen as product-life extension because the life cycle of the product (building) is being extended.
First of all renovation of buildings is a preferable circular strategy because the product is refurbished instead of demolished and recycled. This means that the existing structure and partly the existing skin is being re-used, which leads to a substantial saving of materials. Secondly, the focus of the project on sustainability leads to sustainable and circular considerations on design and material use.
As part of the project two circular renovation projects have been carried out: ‘Werkspoorfabriek’ and ‘De Havenloods’. The main stakeholders are the owners and tenants of the buildings. For the Werkspoorfabriek the organisation Erfgoed Werkspoor Utrecht BV invests in the renovation. DePlaatsmaker invests in the renovation of ‘De Havenloods’. Besides, the experience of these projects is shared with other companies in the area and the region, primarily through the real estate and urban area development managers involved.
Investments as part of the two projects has been (2017- June 2019): €373.531,85 (Cumulative investments of EWU and DePlaatsmaker, source: EFRO WSK VGR-4 2019.07.30)
Evidence of success
In general the circular renovation of buildings leads to more m2 for businesses (9.200 m2 until June 2019) and thereby to more employment opportunities. Depending on the building our estimations show that 80% of materials can be reused when a building is refurbished, meaning substantial savings of virgin material usage.
Several circular principles have been applied: a circular design for ‘Werkspoorfabriek’, meaning adjustable office spaces based on a box-in-box principle.
Potential for learning or transfer
In general it is an interesting case because the sustainable and circular aim of the project seems to be a beneficial context for companies to focus not solely on financial return, but also on social-economic benefits. We relate the case to Sustainable Development Goals, also to be able to compare the initiative with local policy goals.
We determine different approaches in circular renovation, based on strategies from circular economy literature. Very broadly defined any renovation would be circular. Though, it is hard to make a more precise assessment of the circular strategies, and thereby of the savings of virgin material use and energy. To be able to assess the circularity of a building, this case is part of ongoing research project.