Bringing the circular economy into construction projects requires changing our ways

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The old bricks of The Finnish National Theatre have been given a new life in a warehouse built in the yard of a school in the Tikkurila district of Vantaa, Finland. Reusing bricks and other building materials is an example of the circular economy in construction, which the city of Vantaa is keen to promote.


The city of Vantaa aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. Applying circular economy principles in construction – for instance, reusing demolition materials to reduce use of virgin materials – offers considerable opportunities to lower the built environment’s carbon footprint. Construction directly or indirectly causes approximately 30–40 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.


Cities can be leading pioneers of the circular economy. Ideally, Vantaa would have a closed material cycle in accordance with the principles of the circular economy, where demolition materials are fully reused within the city. And when the materials are reused at a nearby location, the emissions associated with the materials’ transportation are also reduced. Transporting the bricks from the theatre to the warehouse

Vantaa is one of four cities involved in the CIRCuIT project, which includes trialling new circular construction techniques, tools and approaches across Europe, in order to find effective approaches to apply the circular economy across the city’s future construction projects.


One of the project’s experimental sites is a warehouse built in the yard of the Tikkurila pavilion school, which was completed in autumn 2021. About two thousand bricks were removed from the partitions of the small stage of the National Theatre and laid on the façade of the building. The construction contract was carried out by Parmaco Ltd.


Obtaining the bricks for reuse involved several challenges. Originally, the bricks were to be taken from the city’s own school, which was being demolished, but the timetables for the demolition and new projects did not coincide. In the end, the bricks were obtained from the Finnish National Theatre, part of which was being dismantled. The demolition work was handled by Umacon Ltd, a CIRCuIT project partner.


The project began with the selection of suitable materials. There were three types of bricks in the part of the theatre to be demolished, whose suitability for the new site was tested. The quality of the different bricks was tested in the Tampere University laboratory, and their frost resistance in the Oulu laboratory of Koestus T&T Oy. The tests showed that closed red bricks are best suited for a new building. After this, the required number of suitable bricks were removed intact, cleaned and transported to the intermediate warehouse before final use in the construction of the new warehouse.

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