DeepDive: Collaborative project shows the way to tomorrow’s profitable reuse in construction

The interior design side has long been a forerunner when it comes to large-scale reuse, recycling and upcycling, while the construction side has lagged behind somewhat. To ensure that circularity becomes the rule rather than the exception in the building sector, sustainable reference projects from the industry are vital. In one such reference project in Kista, White Arkitekter and Klövern are currently finding new ways to reuse building materials on a large scale.

Circular furnishing projects are a way for companies to demonstrate the high level of ambition in their environmental work. On the construction side, reuse has so far been uncommon. Taking the necessary, long-awaited steps forward calls for passionate individuals and bold property owners who think outside the box.

Klövern, one of the leading real estate companies when it comes to circularity, whose White Arkitekter to coordinate reuse, recycling and upcycling when upgrading one of its commercial properties in Kista, outside Stockholm.

As a property owner, we convert premises for our clients many times each year. We need to understand how construction processes and materials affect our carbon footprint, and how we can use circular methods to increase profitability and environmental benefit. The collaboration with White has been an important success factor in the project.
Teresa Mattisson, Head of Sustainability at Klövern

In Kista, White Arkitekter has helped Klövern from the first conceptual sketch to project sign-off – always with a particular focus on preserving and reusing with a high aesthetic vision for the premises, which were designed by White more than 20 years ago. White’s team has helped with project management, inventory, identification and handling of the materials being reused and recycled. Once the upgrade is finished, Klövern itself will move into the premises, and along with White and other collaboration partners the financial and environmental statistics, including CO2e calculations, will be compiled.

The overall budget could be set lower than with a traditional new build with no reuse. At the same time, Klövern’s offices in Kista will be an ideal reference project, so important to help make reuse the new norm in the building sector.

Many reuse sceptics wonder why more time than necessary should be spent on upgrading projects. Laura Conradi, an architect with expertise in transformation, and White Arkitekter’s reuse consultant for the Kista project, says the answer is simple: because it pays. The key is to dismantle in the right way, and this often requires more time in the project’s starting and demolition phases. A high reuse ambition may use up more hours to begin with, but the time quickly pays for itself.

It takes more time to reuse, but it costs less in terms of resources. In many cases the client owns most of the materials, which means the profit is immediate. And we haven’t even started talking about the environmental gains.
Laura Conradi, architect, White Arkitekter

Circularity in polite company

Annie Leonsson is an expert in circular interior design, and has been on White Arkitekter’s team in Kista alongside Laura Conradi. She says that seeing reuse as a second-hand choice in interior design is a thing of the past. Clients appreciate the environmental benefits, while circular interior design also is a message that strengthens the client’s brand. As more and more companies and projects demonstrate that reuse, recycling and upcycling are perfectly possible, while retaining high aesthetic values, the area is now deservedly accepted in polite company – and neither the concept nor the end results are compromised in any way.

In Klövern’s case, circularity has consciously been made a part of the concept, and reuse a part of the interior. Some of the furniture is being re-upholstered or repainted, but the aim is to take as few and as minor measures as possible to maximise the environmental benefit. Special carpentry and kitchenette parts are made in association with local joineries, and the carbon footprint is minimised by carefully selecting the place of manufacture, means of transport and reused material.

“I’ve worked with reuse in interior design at White Arkitekter for eleven years. When I started out, reuse was something that should ideally not be noticeable. Nowadays, companies like Klövern are choosing to allow reuse to be a visible part of the concept. By enhancing and using existing stock, property owners can show their clients they’re at the forefront and have a high level of ambition when it comes to sustainability,” says Annie Leonsson.

Collaboration to promote reuse

White Arkitekter’s reuse team is currently working to find efficient ways of harnessing materials on a large scale. One source of inspiration is Denmark, where there have been solid circular materials flows for many years. Thanks to an internal network and a digital bank, an overview of builds that could potentially serve as raw material sources is available, following inventories by reuse experts like Annie Leonsson and Laura Conradi. Meanwhile, there are several organisations working to increase circularity throughout the industry. One example is Återbruk Väst, of which White Arkitekter is a member. The organisation promotes reuse processes in West Sweden, and strives to find methods to scale up reuse in the building sector to industrial levels.

“This is how we’ll be working at White Arkitekter moving forward. With more projects like the one with Klövern, we can demonstrate future solutions for transformation and circularity that will turn people’s deep-rooted scepticism on its head,” Laura Conradi concludes.

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