Demolition of Colruyt Temse: benchmark for circular construction

Colruyt Temse’s neighbours have recently been looking out onto one big construction site. A brand-new Colruyt will rise on the site of the old store after 37 years. The demolition work was carried out very meticulously, according to Hilde Carens, who is closely monitoring the project for Colruyt Group. “We want to scale up urban mining in Belgium from now on. Meaning we want to recycle the recovered material in a high-quality manner and incorporate it into a brand-new, sustainable building.”

The 7543 m² site in Temse is undergoing an entire metamorphosis this year. For instance, the DATS 24 filling station will disappear completely and the store will be put on pillars. It will be possible to park under the store, providing more space for landscaping, which will improve water infiltration and significantly reduce the heat island effect.

Sorting building materials with care

The demolition work has followed a new pattern. “The sledge hammer has given way to kid gloves, so to speak. Each type of material is sorted separately at the construction site. We test the quality on-site to maximise high-quality recycling.”

The former Colruyt Temse was partly built with aerated concrete, and that is exactly where Colruyt Group is now making a difference. “Previously, old aerated concrete was only good for an insulating screed or cat litter. We want to turn it into pure building blocks again,” Hilde explains. “The aerated concrete panels are not crumbled but retained as panels and stacked on top of each other. It’s good for the neighbourhood because this allows us to avoid a lot of concrete dust and debris. And it’s also good for us because this is urban mining by the book.”

stacked old aerated concrete
old aerated concrete

Recruitment goes digital

Digitalisation is also taking hold on the construction site. “The plans for our oldest supermarkets were sometimes still drawn by hand, manually scanned, and archived. Some plans are so old that even the ink has faded… can you imagine? We want to do away with that. That’s why we’re digitally mapping this project in full, as a benchmark for all subsequent sites. Our demolition specifications are systematically growing and becoming more and more detailed. Each contractor must also prove what happens to the disposed material. Material recovery is the new norm. The higher quality, the better.”

The initial results of this approach are promising. Tackling the top eight most impactful materials, Colruyt Group is potentially influencing the environmental impact of building materials by as much as 95%. Concrete, aerated concrete, asphalt, roofing, wood, insulation, brick, and metal all get a new lease on life. “Our purpose is as ambitious as it is clear,” Hilde concludes. “Every element of our buildings must have a closed loop.”