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International innovator in reuse of demolition materials shares his insights in our first New Now Next talk of 2022.
Maverick Brussels-based designer and researcher Maarten Gielen opened our 10th anniversary New Now Next series by delivering a free talk on architectural sustainability and circular building strategies. Drawing on his expertise helping designers, architects, engineers and building contractors to salvage dismantled building materials for reuse, his talk addressed the urgent question: What systems, infrastructure, and actions are needed to make reuse as common as using new material?
This talk took place on 25 May 2022 and was moderated by Janet Lynch, Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency Lead for Arup Ireland.
Maarten Gielen started out his career in material reuse at age 15 by selling decorative items and objects found at scrap merchants and flea markets to fashion stores and florists. Today, he is a leading practitioner in changing the way materials are used in architecture and construction engineering, through the Brussels-based collective Rotor and its off-shoot Rotor DC (Deconstruction), which he co-founded.
The quantity of construction and demolition waste in Ireland increased to 8.8 million tonnes in 2019, up from 6.2 million tonnes in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Innovative thinking, international models, and comprehensive systems are needed to tackle this problem.
Commenting on Maarten Gielen’s New Now Text talk, Director of the IAF Nathalie Weadick said: “Maarten Gielen is a leading expert on applying circular economy concepts successfully for architectural sustainability. He examines the entire systems and supply chains behind an architectural project, from quarrying, transporting, storing and reusing construction materials, to policy and regulations. He recognises that construction materials are cultural products whose value extends far beyond the technical. He represents the breadth of environmentally responsible design thinking that is urgently needed today.”
Rotor is a non-profit, activistic design practice set up in 2005 by Gielen and others with a shared interest in the flow and transit of materials in the industrial and construction sector. Rotor provides services in interior design and design assistance around reclaimed materials, as well as conferences, exhibitions, teaching, consultancy and research. Currently, Gielen manages the commercial spin-off Rotor DC (Deconstruction), set up in 2014, which dismantles, salvages and sells reused building materials. In practice, Rotor DC goes into buildings that are slated for demolition and sells off parts of those buildings. It documents everything that’s inside the building, creates a catalogue of the items, estimates how much it would cost to salvage the materials, and delivers them directly to the client.
The IAF’s New Now Next talks series is made possible thanks to the continuous support of Arup. Find out about other talks in the New Now Next 10th anniversary series.
Photo of Maarten Gielen courtesy of Victor Pattyn.