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Urban Mining and Recycling Unit

A recyclable living-module from Switzerland shows how the circular- economy works in the construction industry

Empa - Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Switzerland and Germany

Closed material cycles in civil engineering

The world’s natural resources are limited, which is why we need to rethink how we use and reuse everything — away from linear material-consumption and towards an economy of recycling. The Urban Mining and Recycling (UMAR) housing and research unit of the Swiss research institute Empa at “NEST” is demonstrating what this paradigm shift in the construction industry might look like. Architects Werner Sobek, Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel have come up with a building concept that uses entirely separable resources, either reusable or compostable: mortar-free, folding walls made of recycled demolition debris, bathroom cladding made of recycled plastic chopping-boards, or mushroom mycelium as compostable wall-insulation. These are just a few examples of environmentally friendly construction. They aren’t disposed of after use; they are returned to each material cycle. UMAR is thus not only a material laboratory but also a material depot. It is also proof that responsible use of natural resources and modern architecture can go hand in hand.

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