Yesterday RBB showcased a TV report about the Reincarnate project on the occasion of Berlin Science Week, a ten-day festival celebrated annually. This week aims to promote scientific exchanges and innovation through in-person and online events. The festival was an excellent opportunity to present Reincarnate. Professor Sabine Kruschwit from our partner Bundensanstalt für Materialforschsung und prüfung (BAM) was at the forefront to explain how we contribute to a more sustainable construction sector. 

Watch the whole TV report (German) and read it in English below: 

This is how every house in Berlin ends up at some point – as construction waste. Some of this material will pile up in landfills. And whatever is somehow recyclable, might come to this recycling company in Teltow. Here, materials are sorted into bricks, concrete, and cement. It is cleaned, vibrated, sieved for further use after demolition.

Niko: Parts of the material is used as a substructure for roads and paths, i.e. as a gravel base layer. Or the broken masonry, the single-variety bricks later as a planting substrate for green roofs.

The recycling specialists know quite precisely what is still needed – and what is not. Professor Sabine Kruschwitz thinks this is a very good idea, but she calls it “downcycling” and would prefer to avoid the debris altogether or return it to its original purpose.

Sabine Kruschwit: In the first place, we can continue to work with very well sorted materials and then try to make something new out them. But it really has to be very well sorted and known in behaviour.

Reincarnate is the name of their project, so this European research project is about revitalization, and the Federal Institute from Berlin is one of 16 organizations working on turning old into new. And thus, to significantly reduce the large CO2 footprint of the construction industry. The share from Berlin: they analyze the materials with artificial intelligence and then know very quickly what they are still good for.

Sabine Kruschwit: You have to think of it this way: a new building material is particularly high-quality and climate-friendly if a lot of different recycled materials are brought in, because we can then save resources and CO2 at the same time.

So, pebble-like pellets are pressed from the bricks and mixed into the cement in the classic way, properly mixed and shaped, and then dried to produce the first samples. And since we are among the material testers, we also test right next door what the new concrete recipe with brick content can withstand. Everything breaks down at some point. The decisive factor is the pressure at which the specimens give way. So where are the researchers now?

Sabine Kruschwit: At least we are getting closer and closer. And the goal is to develop products that are really ready for the market.

There is also still some time. In 4 years, Reincarnate should present specific results. Climate-friendly building materials, for example, and the materials researchers will not be lacking for test objects, as can be clearly seen at the Teltow recycling center.

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