Sometimes it seems like the new buzzword in construction: circularity. The Olstergaard, the new neighborhood where I will live next year, is nature-inclusive and circular. Future residents are therefore expected to build their homes in a circular manner. But what does that actually mean? Why is circular construction such a good idea and how do you do it?
What is circular construction?
Circular construction is based on, surprise surprise, circularity. Circularity or the circular economy is based on a world without waste. Nice, huh? This means that we work with a closed raw material balance: there is no waste; everything is recycled or reused. That is, of course, ten billion times better than the waste-culture in which we find ourselves today. If everything is recycled or reused, we need many, many fewer ‘new’ raw materials. Less wood, less metal, less sand, less oil, etc. We can leave those in nature, where they belong.
How do you build circularly?
You can build circularly by building with materials that can be recycled or reused. For example, by building in such a way that parts can easily be taken apart again in order to build a new building with them. Or, by using materials that can be composted at the end of their lifecycle. So that they do not harm the environment, but rather they improve the soil as beautiful compost. Think of wood, hemp, flax, and so on. At this year’s Dutch Design week in Eindhoven, a pavilion was made of bio-based building materials, including Platowood facade wood. I find it very inspiring to see all that is already possible!
Do you really have no more waste?
Well, in theory, yes. But in practice you will still have waste. Because even if you buy beautiful bio-based building materials, they often still come in packaging that you have to dispose of. So, if you want to make a circular construction site, you need a waste and recycling plan. Now you don’t have to think about this yourself when you have your Tiny House built by a professional. But it is a good idea to ask your builder how he or she handles waste. If consumers en masse ask the construction sector to take responsibility when it comes to waste, the sector will change that much faster.
Make sure you have a good waste management plan
If you do build your Tiny House yourself, it is advisable to set up a waste management plan. Provide several containers where you can separate waste wood, metal and plastic and the like. Yes, you are going to have plastic (packaging) waste, no matter how sustainable your building materials are. These are often quantities that do not fit in your residential waste disposal bins at home. There are often costs associated with handing in construction waste at the municipal yard, so find out what those costs are. Sometimes it is better to rent a container, especially if you are building several Tiny Houses at the same time with several people.
The goal is to be zero waste on the construction site. In practice, this will not be entirely feasible, but we can certainly strive for it.
Tiny House = tiny building materials
Did you know that 40% of all waste consists of construction waste? Therefore, we can make a big difference here. Because one thing is certain: when you build a Tiny House you have a lot less construction waste than when you build a regular home. To start with, you need much less material, which results in a smaller footprint on our dear Mother Earth.
How circular will my home be?
My new Tiny House is a bio-based timber frame house. The insulation is done with a combination of hemp/jute and a wood fiber board. The facade cladding is made of Platowood hydro-thermally preserved poplar wood, and the frames are made of Platowood fraké. The house will be built on a screw foundation that is circular by definition and the entire house, including the greenhouse, can be moved to another location if necessary or desirable.
An example of a Platowood Poplar facade, at KDV Pinkeltje in Voorburg. Photo: Maurits van Hout
Of course, there are also elements in my home that are not circular, especially in the installations. The solar panels and batteries for example, which are not 100% recyclable yet. Fortunately, there is a lot of focus on improving this issue and these products are in continuous development. I am trying to build my house within the regulations in such a way that I can live a simple life in it with a small footprint, low energy consumption and all energy generated sustainably. And I think I am managing that pretty well so far! :)