Mining in the city: Heidelberg goes circular

Urban mining aims to reuse existing building fabric. Heidelberg is the first European city to consistently focus on recycling building materials.

Construction and demolition waste accounts for around half of the waste generated in Germany. Only a small proportion of this is recycled – and mostly in inferior form. As a result, materials such as concrete, steel, wood, or plastic from remodeling or demolition work usually end up in landfills or as filling material in road construction. 

Heidelberg wants to change this and is the first city in Europe to consistently rely on the principle of urban mining. The idea behind it: Buildings that have fallen into disrepair are no longer regarded as worthless waste, but as a storehouse of materials for new buildings. Urban mining is thus a kind of modern mining in the city, in which building materials are mined and recycled directly in the urban space. 

The pilot project “Circular City – Building Material Cadastre for the City of Heidelberg” is supported by HeidelbergCement AG, one of the world’s largest building materials companies. The city is also being accompanied by the building materials platform Madaster and the environmental consulting institute EPEA. The goal is a complete economic and ecological analysis of the entire building stock. From now on, a digital cadastre will provide information on which material was used, in what quality and in what quantity.

The first buildings have already been recorded: The Patrick Henry Village, a former housing estate for members of the U.S. Army, is Heidelberg’s largest conversion area at around 100 hectares. In the long term, apartments for 10,000 people and space for around 5,000 jobs are to be built here. The cadastre is to be extended to the entire city area by the end of 2022.

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