The Super Circular Estate project

Kerkrade, Netherlands Construction and Development, Economic sustainability, Environment and Resource efficiency, Relations to stakeholders
EU funded project
“The results of this project will deliver a considerable contribution to future sustainable urban restructuring developments, in which not only materials are reused but also residents' thoughts and ideas play an integral part.”


The proposed innovative urban action is to experiment with new circular economy processes aimed at 100% reusing and recycling of materials acquired from the demolition of an outdated social housing high-rise flat.

Concretely, four pilot housing units will be built with different reuse/recycle techniques using materials acquired from the circular demolition of one of the high-rise social housing buildings. These will be compared in order to assess their viability and replicability. The harvested materials from the high-rise flat will be brought back to resources in 24 material flows, e.g. the surfaced timber will be restored to wood for reuse/recycle purposes. In line with circularity principles, former inhabitants will be invited back into the area. These potential tenants will be strongly involved in the co-design, operation and monitoring of the new collaborative economy services and facilities (such as a shared mobility platform and a social services centre) within the area. The project will generate 805.000 kilo of CO₂ emissions less, compared to the construction of a new high-rise flat. Besides the project will experiment with innovative techniques for water reuse by testing a closed water cycle initiative for social housing.

Super Circular Estate’s innovation aim is to revolutionize the management of social housing associations towards more sustainable, resource-efficient decision making, delivery models and processes. The Super Circular Estate aspires gathering important information for estate owners and social housing corporations in the EU with similar challenges in comparable shrinkage regions.


The Super Circular Estate contributes to a sustainable, low carbon, resource efficient economy by creating high-quality, desirable urban environment and affordable housing opportunities based on breakthrough innovative material and social circular solutions. Europe’s first circular estate is based in a sustainable shrinkage area in Stadsregio Parkstad Limburg in the South of the Netherlands. In the next 30 years, the Parkstad Limburg region’s population will shrink by 27% due to population ageing and young people moving to urban agglomeration cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. This implies that less housing accommodation will be demanded in the following decades. High-rise apartment buildings, which were mainly built in the 1960s when housing shortage was a primary issue, no longer satisfy requirements and inhabitants’ needs. Three vacant high-rise apartment buildings in the project-area in the city of Kerkrade contain valuable materials, qualities and former social structures. Demolition of these buildings will irreversibly impair these values. The objective of the Super Circular Estate is to circularly reuse these values within the project area whilst boosting the local economy and creating a high-quality and desirable urban environment. The former social structures will be recovered by actively stimulating former inhabitants to take residence in the area again. The project serves as a best example for approximately 1250 similar housing accommodations in the Parkstad Limburg region.

Issues tackled

As UIA Expert Elma Durmisevic presents, “Many challenges with respect to the differences between circular and conventional building process have been addressed by consortium members in zoom-in movie from January 2019 (
watch?v=azLRMLTlOMw). Key challenges mentioned by the design and engineering team are changing roles of participating partners through the development process, shifting responsibilities, shifting user’s perception and acceptance of reused materials, changing costs and financial models, development of new building methods, registration of materials and their potential future value. Although the project is facing big challenges, it has already illustrated the potential of new circular approach to the transformation of existing buildings.”

Actors involved

  • Municipality of Kerkrade
  • Brunssum municipality
  • Landgraaf municipality
  • Stadsregio Parkstad Limburg - regional authority
  • VolkerWessels Construction
  • Real Estate Development South and Dusseldorp Infra
  • Water Board Company Limburg
  • Limburg Drinking Water Company
  • IBA Parkstad B.V
  • Zuyd University of Applied Sciences
  • HeemWonen - social housing corporation
  • Association of Demolition Contractors (VERAS)

Actions carried out

  • July 2018: design and engineering of four pilot housing units using different reuse/recycle techniques.
  • September 2018: circular demolition of the top three floors from a high-rise flat for the establishment of the four Urban Innovative Actions housing units.
  • December 2018: completion of the four pilot housing units.
  • During 2019: circular demolition of a high-rise flat
  • January 2019: social services center up and running
  • During 2020: former inhabitants take residence in the new dwellings in their former neighborhood.
  • Start of 2020: closed water cycle in operation.


The expected results for the Super Circular Estate project are:

The circular demolition of a high-rise flat with 100 dwellings resulting in 24 material streams.
The establishment of four pilot housing units with different reuse techniques, made from the harvested materials of the demolished high-rise flat.
Approximately 125 former inhabitants of the area back in the new neighbourhood.
A closed water cycle to provide 35 households with high-quality drinking water.
A social services centre with six functions to strengthen social cohesion and stimulates community building aimed at waste reduction.
A mobility platform providing e-cars, (e-)bikes and mobility scooters for inhabitants’ use.

Why it works

Prior to the Building Permit procedure, it was necessary to have consultations with Dutch Minister for Environment and discuss the
nature of the experiment and potential exceptions with respect to the building procedure. It has been agreed that for this experiment the new construction of three houses does not have to comply with building regulations for new construction, but for the regulations applied to reconstruction.

Super Circular Estate consortium has done detailed investigation of the exiting 10-story high 100-appartment housing block that will be deconstructed in order to create a material bank for the construction of three new houses and in the later stage 12 more apartments.

In order to create an overview of available materials to be harvested for the new construction, the deconstruction company has created a material database creating material codes in order to track and trace materials during deconstruction and construction phase.

Circular buildings recognize four major levels of technical/physical decomposition. The first levels of building decomposition are associated with disassembly and have potential for high value recovery of building parts.

According to the study done by the University of Applied Science Zuyd (Zuyd) approximately 90% of materials used for Type A have been reused from the 10-story building and only 10% of materials are new materials. This ratio of new and reused material also reflects a ratio of the CO2 emissions that have been reused. When looking at the embodied energy 65% is embodied in reused materials and 35% is used for production of new materials.

If reuse of carbon within SCE project would be calculated as financial benefit, according to the potential carbon pricing development, the gap between construction costs of conventional house presented by Housing corporation HeemWonen and initial estimation of
construction cost of House Type A (calculated by contractor Jongen Bouw) would still remain significantly high at +/- €1.500,-/ m².
This indicates that significant improvements of deconstruction technique are needed, but at the same time this emphasise the importance of adopting new design and construction strategies for new/ future circular buildings, a design strategy that will enable easy disassembly of building parts after their initial use.

Ultimately the way materials and elements are assembled together will determent the value of the material bank in the future and future reuse potential and market value of building products.



More information