Last year, a project started up in my town to build a new community house out of recycled materials. In addition to old wooden planks for flooring and vintage lamps for lighting, even old bricks were delivered from demolished buildings in the region.
A new breed of certified building materials
We had a lot of fun for a few months hammering old bricks and shoveling them through a big machine that scraped the last bits of mortar off. Little did I think about the prospects of what we were doing, but recently it came to my knowledge that Danish company Gamle Mursten (Old Bricks) will actually be the first in the world to supply certified CE marked recycled bricks.
CE marking (Conformité Européenne) is a globally recognized certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).
From the gamlemursten.dk website:
“Reused bricks significantly reduce the amount of building waste that is generated, and brick reuse in buildings saves the environment significant amounts of the CO2 used for producing new bricks. Everytime you replace a new brick with a reused brick, you save the environment 0.5 kg CO2.
Therefore, Gamle Mursten upcycles bricks to create more beautiful buildings and to save the world from the CO2 emissions caused by the production of new bricks.
Since 2003, Gamle Mursten has continuously developed the brick cleaning technology, which we call the REBRICK process.
In our production, the old bricks are cleaned, manually sorted and stabled by a robot; we sell to new construction as well as renovation of existing buildings.”
Ingeniøren published an article recently in which it covers the news of this new certification as well as reviews the current challenges of the lack of information about the properties of recycled materials. This has always been a problem for the architects, contractors, and builders who wish to use recycled building materials, but at the same time have to take responsibility for their properties. A certification will change that, because the materials will be tested according to standardized methods.
CEO of Gamle Mursten Claus Juul Nielsen says that they already sell millions of bricks to all kinds of buildings and he expect this certification will increase demand significantly. He elaborates:
“Today we not only supply building materials to experimental construction, but also for ordinary industrial construction — like we did to Carlsberg. Obviously the EU’s approval is the key that makes recycling more valuable. “
Gamle Mursten expects to ship its first batch of CE-marked recycled bricks before the end of march.
Recycling bricks for centuries
I live in a part of Denmark with many beautiful and historical buildings. A very significant one is the Kalø Castle Ruin. You still sense the sheer scale of how this building would have presented itself when you approach it on the peninsula in the bay area opposite the city of Aarhus.
The Castle has a violent history, and the first time it was destroyed was actually only a decade after it was first built in 1313. Since then it was rebuilt, but in the 1660s it lost its importance as a fortress and in the 1670s it was dismantled and building materials — mainly bricks — were shipped to Copenhagen to build Charlottenborg Castle, which is named after queen Charlotte Amalie who resided there from 1699.
It is a genuinely comforting thought, that when you look at a brick building any one of those bricks can originate from many different places. Apart from the green-tech-recycling aspect, this makes buildings ooze of history — even if they are brand new.