Recovering sanitary equipment during renovations and cleaning it for reuse
Rotor Deconstruction is an innovative company that focuses on the reuse of building products, especially interior finishes from large buildings of the 20th and 21st centuries. Our goal is to facilitate the reuse of materials within the construction industry.
With this project, we want to specifically investigate a possible new service, namely the reuse of sanitary equipment from office buildings that is often replaced in large numbers during renovations.
Flanders is one of the most densely built-up regions in Europe and office buildings make up a large part of our built-up environment. Every year, around 5% of the total surface area of office buildings is renovated. Roughly speaking, that amounts to 650 double sinks, 1,500 toilets and 500 urinals that are disposed as waste, only to be re-purchased. These sanitary facilities, made of ceramic and therefore very durable, are often only a decade old and therefore still perfectly functional if properly maintained.
In order to avoid such waste, we are looking into the possibility of collecting the used sanitary equipment for inspection and thorough cleaning, and then delivering it as good as new. In this way, the budget for the purchase of new products is also spent on local employment with a limited ecological footprint.
We investigated which sanitary elements could be considered for cleaning and reuse and devised a selection procedure for this purpose. We also identified the bottlenecks influencing the lifespan of sanitary elements.
We developed a working method for contractors who dismantle sanitary elements and prepare them for transport, and we developed and tested a cleaning procedure.
Our service was applied for the first time in a large project in Brussels. The customer ordered more than 150 reconditioned sanitary appliances, but the order was cancelled. We ended up selling the reconditioned appliances to private individuals and smaller interior design projects.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Research shows that it is technically perfectly possible to make quality sanitary appliances as good as new. The appliances made of wear-resistant ceramic can, if properly maintained, last a long time after thorough cleaning.
Our cleaning service is currently not profitable in purely economic terms. Most office buildings are equipped with basic models that cost less when new than when cleaned. Cleaning is so expensive because a lot of manual work is required at the various stages. It would be more profitable if customers dismantled their appliances themselves and took them to the cleaning site.
Cleaning generally makes more sense for more expensive sanitary appliances. For example, integrated washbasins are cheaper when new than when reconditioned. Surface-mounted models are more expensive, but recovery is much more feasible here. For urinals, the balance is different: they are more expensive to buy, but easier to clean.
For the reuse of sanitary appliances, it is important that they are always maintained with appropriate cleaning agents that do not affect the enamel. The enamel makes it harder for dirt to adhere and keeps the whole thing watertight and hygienic. Unfortunately, there are many aggressive cleaning products on the market that affect the enamel.
260.000 M2offices renovated per year
2.650pieces of sanitary equipment disposed of per year
150first order of 150 cleaned equipment
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Thanks to this research, we have been able to develop a cleaning procedure for the reuse of sanitary appliances from office buildings and are able to offer this service to developers and construction companies.
Although it is technically possible to get the equipment as good as new, the cost of the service is equal to or sometimes even higher than the purchase price of new equipment. As a result, demand may initially come from construction projects with circular ambitions, instead of from a cost-saving perspective.
A different approach, whereby the customer delivers the appliances himself to the place where they will be cleaned, could increase the profitability of our activity.