At the beginning of 2022, two Horizon Europe projects were selected under the call for proposals HORIZON-CL4-2021-TWIN-TRANSITION-01-11 with an ambitious mission: developing and testing automated tools for the valorisation of construction waste. During summer time, around one year ago, both Reincarnate and Reconmatic initiated their assignments, becoming a reference for the construction industry of the future. 

Today we are calling to the stage our sister project Reconmatic to learn more about their mission and vission. The Reconmatic project is funded by the European Union under Grant Agreement No. 101058580 and by the UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Guarantee programme for UK Horizon Europe participation.​ Let’s see our commonalities and approaches to circularity in the construction sector!

What is the RECONMATIC project about, could you describe it briefly?

RECONMATIC is a European research and innovation project that explores automated solutions for sustainable construction and demolition waste (CDW) management.  It focuses on integrated decision-making tools that would help to better identify and minimise waste during the entire lifecycle of a building.  The project, funded by EU R&D funding programme Horizon Europe and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will create solutions that can be easily adopted by all stakeholders involved in CDW processes. The multidisciplinary consortium of the project brings together 23 partners from Europe, United Kingdom and China.


What are your objectives?

During this 4-year journey, the partners will identify circular economies, evaluate the current practices in CDW management, from prevention and minimization of waste to its effective reuse cases, and will further develop them to support the supply chains.

RECONMATIC solutions aim to eliminate issues brought on by the segmentation of the construction industry through integrated decision-making that takes into account all aspects of CDW. A digital-twin-based system will enable integration. Before construction even begins, future waste volumes can be minimised by having an understanding of the later stages of the construction life cycle, as well as the knowledge on secondary materials or potential product recovery. We will search for integrated whole-life CDW management of built structures based on BIM-driven systems that allow data handling (sharing, collecting, utilising, and evaluating) throughout the structure’s life cycle.

Another objective of the project is effective off-site trash management. Off-site waste sorting and segregation will prevent many of the issues associated with current practice, reduce waste, and help to better plan onsite activities during deconstruction to avoid contamination. These actions will also produce feed materials for CDW for the production of high-value secondary materials and products.

By embracing readily available technologies and maximising the potential of the New European Green Deal, RECONMATIC represents a paradigm shift in CDW management, from the traditionally conservative approach of the construction industry, which is struggling to reach the target of high rate of waste recovery. The technologies that will be used in this project –such as digital twin, blockchain-based applications, construction product routing, effective sorting through automation and robotics- will be developed, described and demonstrated to such detail as to reach higher technological readiness levels and enable smooth adoption by all stakeholders.

Which are the main challenges that you face?

The key advantage, of bringing together a wide range of experts in its consortium, is also one of the main challenges we face.

The different approaches addressing construction and CDW management in the countries represented need to be well understood, if we are going to develop common solutions with significant impact and implementation across the EU, UK and Chinese markets. We need to adapt the solutions developed by the project to this reality of differences in national markets as far as possible.

The actual integration of digital and environmental tools with the progressive anchoring of CDW management throughout the life cycle of buildings and infrastructure is another important challenge.  Developing such an approach reflects only a partial challenge for the consortium itself, while the bigger challenge remains to gradually bring these new solutions closer to everyday practice. We are aware that the actual implementation cannot be simple, due to the varied levels of market maturity in the use of BIM or LCA and the introduction of pre-demolition audit procedures. In the case of BIM -for example- we do not have digital twins for the majority of existing buildings, even on the most established BIM marketplaces, despite the fact that this approach and set of processes during the planning and construction are gradually becoming standards for new buildings.


Tell us about the digital innovations you are developing!

In order to achieve “top-down” European waste reduction goals, the project suggests a variety of cutting-edge tools, solutions, and techniques for “bottom-up” construction and demolition waste prevention, avoidance, management and handling:

  1. A digital information management system for stakeholder engagement and trash tracking is going to be developed, tested, and demonstrated.
  2. We are empowering BIM by integrating waste management relevant data into the information models and developing a suite of tools that work in concert with one another to share common data, which will be defined through the development of a new data set (WASTEie). The Materials Data Bank (MDB), a repository for all waste and recycling data from manufacturers and their products, will sit alongside and feed Prediction Tools that consider important project-related factors, enabling accurate prediction of waste generation, recycling/recovery, and their associated costs from project-specific inputs. A novel Generative Design approach that uses “cutting edge” tools from industry-leading design application specialists to provide accelerated insights into waste optimisation during design, is closing this loop.
  3. We are going to develop automated solutions to support the de-construction and waste separation processes through several methods:
    1. By employing digital twins of end-of-service life (EoSL) constructions to automate the decision-making process and planning for their repurposing, deconstruction and demolition;
    2. by developing AI-based material recognition and sorting, and
    3. by automating and streamlining sorting (segregation) and pre-treatment processes of CDW.
  4. We will propose a new approach for CDW logistics and ways to improve valorisation of uses of CDW
  5. The project will assess the sustainability and circularity defined by a new guidance protocol (tool), applicable to all solutions of life-cycle C&D waste management. The protocol will be applied to all demonstrators to assess our solutions with regard to economic feasibility, social acceptance and environmental impacts, including health and safety and GHG emissions and will remain available after the project end. A business plan and exploitation roadmap for the project’s outputs will be created.

Where are you going to demonstrate these innovations and how?

RECONMATIC will present at least 6 demonstration case studies, carried out in 5 different European countries that will pilot developed technologies on real building and infrastructure projects at various stages of the life cycle, as well as the standard procedure at recycling facilities.

More specifically, the demonstrators will take place in the below countries and will focus on the different applications listed below:

  1. GREECE: Application of blockchain to concrete logistics processes to enable reduction of construction waste creation (reduction of concrete waste during the construction phase)
  2. ITALY: Digital management of materials and waste in infrastructure projects (Railway use case)
  3. CZECH REPUBLIC: Automated CDW management solutions using digital twin in construction (Road use case)
  4. CZECH REPUBLIC: Automated CDW management solutions using digital twin for buildings (Buildings use case)
  5. SPAIN: Off-site treatment of CDW and valorisation in recycled products and ECO-Aggregates (Robotic fine-sorting use case)
  6. UNITED KINGDOM​: BIM tools for digitalised waste management in design and construction stage (New data set for information management)

To give additional verification and proof of implementation capability in real conditions, the project will create a sustainability and circularity assessment tool that will evaluate each of these demonstrations.


Which outcomes do you expect to get at the end of the project?

RECONMATIC proposes to create a digital information management system (DIMS) that integrates the different CDW management stages. This system will enable waste traceability and management while managing built asset project information throughout its entire life cycle.

Additionally, we are going to develop automated solutions to support the de-construction and waste separation processes through automated processes. The effectiveness is often significantly influenced by material deliveries and excessive surpluses, as well as the construction site conditions (pace of the work, transport distance, weather, etc.). The innovative blockchain-driven solution offered by RECONMATIC aims to secure various additional aspects of the delivery while ensuring the flow of information between the supplier, contractor, site, and the carrier.

Guidelines and methodology for the Materials Data Bank (MDB) -the national repositories for all waste and recycling data from manufacturers and their products- will be developed as part of the project’s results. This will be combined with a collection of prediction tools that will be integrated into BIM tools and take into account important project-related factors to enable accurate waste generation, recycling, and recovery cost predictions based on project specific inputs. The development of a new data set, which we are referring to as WASTEie, will support the development of a collection of technologies that are synergistically linked together by BIM sharing common data. A new generative design methodology that employs some “cutting egde” tools from industry-leading design application specialists closes this loop and offers quick insights into waste optimisation throughout the design phase.

The RECONMATIC robotic sorting prototype will propose a fusion of different systems developed or tested in the industry, gathering and developing the best aspects of each, and will suggest an effective, agile and cost-efficient approach to perform negative separation on pre-sorted CDW. The final prototype should be rather a semi-mobile robotic sorter than a heavy one.


What do you think about projects such as Reincarnate and RECONMATIC and their importance for the construction industry? 

Europe has recently embarked on a difficult and challenging journey of dual transformation. It must be highlighted that both changes or paradigm shifts are essential if we are to keep building contemporary communities on Earth. On the one hand, we need to make the most effective use of digitalisation and the tools it provides us with. In the construction industry, this is related to building information management and the progressive use of automation and robotics whenever manual work needs to be replaced due to demanding conditions or health or safety risks. The second change is in how we approach the environment, with the goal of protecting it much better, preserving the basic conditions of life and biodiversity, and minimising human impacts on nature. This transition is probably more crucial in terms of preserving the standard of living that we have grown accustomed to and strive to maintain for future generations. The change from a linear to a circular economy is now frequently linked to this transformation. It is a fundamental truth of nature that our ancestors understood and that we must once again comprehend and, more importantly, integrate into our daily lives.

The building sector is not among the most digitally advanced ones. At the same time, it is characterised by its high consumption of non-renewable resources, energy and emissions. Last but not least, it is associated with the production of large quantities of waste, but its parameters are such that, if the conditions and waste management are set correctly, closed cycles can be effectively achieved, minimising the need to use additional virgin resources.

Both in the RECONMATIC and Reincarnate projects, the aim is to identify solutions and methods for achieving a modern, smart and greener construction industry in Europe with the help of contemporary tools and by combining digitalisation and circular economy principles.