Plan for repurposing quality materials

Each year, thousands of tonnes of fully functional building materials from offices are discarded. Fabege is now taking part in a research project that aims to increase the repurposing of materials that are in very good condition. 

Researchers at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute are investigating how to ensure that building products for fixed office interiors are repurposed to a greater extent. The project is to result in a plan for dealing with quality products on an industrial scale, including glass partitions and lighting. It is hoped that new approaches and systems can be devised – for IT support, for example.

The project runs for two years and will be completed in 2018. Fabege is participating along with around 10 other actors – including property companies, architecture firms and academia-based industrial technology company Chalmers Industriteknik.

“We’ve joined this project because we think it’s both financially and environmentally sustainable to repurpose quality materials such as ceilings and lighting. The idea of trying to counteract the throw-away society, particularly when the customer often can’t tell whether a ceiling tile has previously been in a different building or is completely new, is an attractive one for us. We can see the potential for major environmental benefits in this area,” says Mats Lundman, project manager at Fabege.  

Researchers in the project are conducting a number of case studies looking at environmental gains, the amount of waste, carbon emissions when transporting building materials and when manufacturing materials, and other factors. One object of study is the new offices of FTI, Förpacknings- och tidningsindustrin in Solna Business Park, which are now under construction. FTI’s business involves collecting and recycling packaging materials and newspapers.

“FTI reuses as much as it can,” says Mats Lundman. “We’ve kept the false ceiling and a lovely mosaic parquet floor from the office that was previously here, but we’re sanding the floor down and varnishing it instead of putting in carpet. We’re keeping the existing tiling and porcelain in most of the bathrooms, along with the cable ducts for electricity and network cables.”

From an environmental perspective, it’s best if the office interior can be reused on the same premises, and the next best thing is if it’s used on different premises in the same building. If this isn’t possible, the material can be transported to a different office. Fabege practically always keeps the entrance doors when making adaptations for new tenants and prefers to switch to LED lighting in all offices. LED lamps give off less heat, ensuring that less energy is consumed when cooling the premises.

What is preventing the repurposing of building material when companies move offices today?

“The approach needs to change throughout the industry,” says Mats Lundman. “Tenants need to think it’s OK to reuse quality materials, and architects should consider preserving materials and features when designing new offices. For example, you can keep the kitchens and toilets in the same place so that it’s not necessary to reroute pipes and sewage. If you keep the existing rooms, you don’t have to move walls or reroute ventilation and electric cables.”

FACTS // What can be reused when an office move takes place:

  • Partition walls
  • Lighting
  • Doors
  • Ceilings
  • Heating, ventilation and sanitation products
  • Fittings
  • Ironwork
  • Flooring