Danish researchers have developed an automated scavenging system to sort out demolition waste and pick out bricks that can be used again.
The REBRICK project, funded by the European Union (EU), wants to increase the reusability of building material. The team based their effort on an assumption that most of the debris resulting from demolitions is frequently simply sent to landfill or crushed despite the fact it could contain still complete and valuable parts.
"There are millions of brick buildings in the world," said REBRICK project coordinator Claus Nielsen. "Every time one of these buildings is demolished the bricks have the potential to become part of a new building and a new story.”
The system, developed by Danish company Gamle Mursten, is capable of automatically cleaning concrete and cement from old bricks, using gentle vibrations. As no water or chemicals are being used, the quality of the building material is not compromised.
At the beginning, the demolition brick debris is loaded into a hopper and transported on conveyers to a separator that removes mortar and other components, such as wires, cement and wood from the bricks.
An automated system further separates whole bricks from damaged bricks and cleans them using the patented vibration technology. After cleaning, the bricks are manually sorted according to their visual characteristics, quality and value. Each brick is then placed on a conveyer system to be automatically stacked and wrapped by a robot. The bricks are then ready for a prolonged life in a new building.
“By reusing old bricks and transferring their history and applying their character to new buildings, they become tangible examples of the potential that is hidden in demolition debris," said Nielsen.
The first two demolition-debris sorting plants have already been unveiled in Denmark. The company now plans to established new facilities in Poland and Germany. The team believes the system could deliver an annual reduction of waste amounting to 24 000 tonnes.
"Our approach ensures the availability of a sustainable building material while at the same time creating green jobs and contributing to sustainable production and environmentally friendly development within the construction and architecture sectors," Nielsen said.
"Eventually millions of people could benefit from REBRICK, because it can make beautiful old bricks available for new buildings throughout Europe."