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How do we build a room that will be used temporarily, without having to throw away the structure or material afterwards?  That is what we asked ourselves as we began preparing for winter at the CRCLR house. Our goal was to create a heatable space, giving a new life to used materials, a temporary structure which would not generate any waste once dismantled.

While doing our research, we were faced with the shocking statistic that 52% of overall waste in Germany comes from construction sites*. We were determined not to add to this statistics and therefore turned to our framework of circular economy for answers.

We partnered up with our friends from Refunc to make it happen. They are a group of architects exclusively working with unused or waste materials that they collect and reuse. Our goal as a project is to be able to work and live on the premises of the circular economy. Thus, Refunc was the perfect fit for this task.

Not only because they specialise on using materials that would otherwise be considered waste, but also because of the way they treat their materials: Instead of altering components in the process, they “borrow” them, so if they were to be taken back out of the end result at any time, they could be brought back into the (re)cycle again. This made us especially curious since within the circular economy framework, keeping objects at their highest value makes a lot of sense. Like that, you could theoretically reuse them an infinite number of times.

Building unconventionally starts in the planning phase. Instead of designing a structure and then searching for material we first looked at which material we could salvage and designed the structure based on what we found.

The concept is simple: with every material that we chose we mapped where and how it would be used, but also what it would become after dismantling the temporary structure. One example of this are construction fences. We know that we will need them in future building projects of the CRCLR House hence we decided to build the structure walls out of them. Only interlocked and not welded together, 11 fences are holding our new room together and will later be used in their traditional function once construction begins at CRCLR.

Another challenge we faced was how to isolate our cold walls. We thought of using donated clothes so we reached out to the Berliner Stadtmission, an association advocating for people in precarious situations.  As one of their projects, the Berliner Stadtmission receives and sorts donated clothes and redistributes these for charitable use. In winter, up to 10 tonnes of clothes per week are donated to the Berliner Stadtmission!  We set ourselves to transform 200 kg of clothes into insulation, packed in tubular bags along the walls of our framework. As opposed to shredding clothes to use them as filling material, we left them whole to be able to give them back intact.

However plans often do not always go as planned. The clothes accumulated a lot of weight so that the seams of the tubes could not hold them. Luckily, fate treated us well: Our neighbours from the Rollberg Brauerei, located 40 meters away from the CRCLR House called us that day. They received a delivery of Malt, which comes in big plastic bags. Those cannot be reused in the brewery for hygiene reasons but they came in very handy for our insulation problem. Closing loops in our Kiez! We picked up 180 malting bags and used these to insulate our new room.

Building in a circular way is doable. It involves a fair amount of “trial and error” and “work it out together” approaches. Materials for it can be found everywhere as long as we begin to recognise the value of objects traditionally labelled as waste. If you wish to see the final result, come by the CRCLR House!