New knowledge about "gray energy"

Ideally, the excursions of Circular Valley® startups lead to a knowledge transfer in both directions. This goal was clearly achieved during the international startups' visit to the Hagedorn Group in Gütersloh. The young entrepreneurs obtained new perspectives on deconstruction and recycling, while the hosts were able to discuss their topics on a global level.
Circular Valley® start-ups visiting the Hagedorn Group in Gütersloh. Credits: Circular Valley®/Jan Turek.
"Circular economy in construction still occurs in an area of tension. Of course, it is often easier to use new materials. However, recycled materials are no longer inferior to raw materials in terms of their quality and are better for the environment. Therefore, we want to work to ensure that the circular idea continues to gain a better and better foothold in the construction industry," says Jens Hofmann, Coordinator of Demolition Units at Hagedorn.

The Hagedorn Group targets crucial parts of the circular economy: it is an all-round service provider in the fields of demolition, waste disposal, civil engineering, as well as land revitalization. The startups gained a glimpse into this world, when first visiting the Gütersloh Recyclables Center (GWG) and then a construction site in Hagen. During their first stop, the focus was on polluted soils. While the international guests saw material that they felt was suitable for reuse, they also had to learn about the rules and restrictions governing recycling.

The construction site the startups visited was a former industrial plant that is currently being dismantled and whose site is to be restored for a new use. Chimneys and buildings had already disappeared, so that Hagedorn employees could demolish and crush the remaining foundations. Once the material is crushed, it is analyzed to determine which parts need to be landfilled and which can be re-used. The latter construction waste generated during the demolition is recycled and reused while still on site. During the construction site tour, the guests from Circular Valley® saw how supposedly old material can in fact be of very high quality, for example the high-quality construction that has been done in the 1970s.
Circular Valley® start-ups visiting the Hagedorn Group in Gütersloh. Credits: Circular Valley®/Jan Turek.

The key take-aways for the founders: although construction sights contain a lot of "gray energy", its full potential is not exploited. Many players already exhibit a willingness to leave used materials on the construction site in order to reuse them in new projects. Companies like Hagedorn implement willingness will to some extent. Unfortunately, however, the use of "gray energy" does not always find its way into legislation or tenders. More persuasion is needed - and it is good to know that this issue is tackled with fellow supporters around the world.