Skip to main content
Green Business

Adopting circular economy principles: Setting reclamation targets in a redevelopment tender

Case study of SERS (Société d’Aménagement et d’Equipement de la Région de Strasbourg), France


The Société d’Aménagement et d’Equipement de la Région de Strasbourg (SERS) is a large public developer in the region of Strasbourg (France). One of their projects redeveloped a former hospital complex into a technological campus (Technoparc Nextmed), for which several existing buildings needed to be renovated and extended. The campus will open on 1st October 2022 when the first tenants will arrive on site. Some buildings will be finished by 2028. The SERS’s mission ends in 2033.

The contracting authority was already assisted by a consortium of architects (Richter Architects) and a cooperative company (Relais 2D). The non-profit organisation Rotor, a partner of the Interreg project Facilitating the circulation of reclaimed building elements in Northwestern Europe (NWE FCRBE), approached the SERS and their consortium in 2020. The SERS concluded a Pilot Operation Agreement with Rotor without any financial participation from the SERS, as it was part of the economy of the NEW FCRBE project. "Pilot operations'' refers to a specific mechanism that supports project owners, architectural offices and/or contractors in addressing issues of recovery and reuse of materials. Beyond the awareness-raising aspect, this was also a way for the FCRBE project to better identify users´ needs and to refine the tools developed by Rotor (e.g. inventory method, recommendations for prescriptions, directory of professional dealers, etc.).

Procurement objectives

The FCRBE project aims to increase the amount of reused building materials in circulation in North West Europe by 50%. All too often, buildings are demolished without even assessing the possibility of reclaiming certain elements and materials. Yet, in many cases materials are easily dismantled and are of interest to professional resellers.

The goal was to integrate more ambitious targets for building material reclamation and reuse into the call for tenders for redeveloping the so-called ENT Wing (Ear, Nose and Throat Wing). This 6.2000 sqm building dates from the 1930s. The term of reclamation means all the steps that are necessary to ensure that materials are reused. It involves the proper and careful dismantling of the materials and their proper conditioning, e.g. packaging them in such a way that they do not break.

The redevelopment aimed to carefully dismantle batches of reusable materials, demolish and clean.

Rotor also considered the potential for reuse on-site but it became clear that the architects were too advanced in the renovation design process. They had already taken design choices that excluded the on-site reuse of these building materials elements.

The tenders also provided job opportunities for people experiencing difficulties in finding work.

Criteria used

Different steps were necessary to set reclamation targets in the call for tenders.

First, an inventory of the reusable materials was compiled. Due to the pandemic, Rotor could not travel to the site. So, the contracting authority had to take pictures of the different parts of the building. These pictures were then analysed by Rotor to assess the reuse potential. The contracting authority also conducted some dismantling tests, with guidance from Rotor.

Second, in parallel, and together with Rotor, the contracting authority investigated if there was a market for reclaimed materials. Here again, they were able to draw on the results of the FCRBE project which has documented hundreds of companies in North West Europe dealing with reclaimed building materials. The initial inventory was sent to approximately 40 companies. They were asked to indicate if, and in what conditions, they would reclaim these materials. While some did not show any interest, others indicated their conditions, including visiting the building for reclaiming some batches. 

These two investigations gave positive results: many materials from the existing building were relatively easy to reclaim, and there was a potential market for them. Consequently, the contracting authority integrated ambitious reclamation targets in their call for tenders, with the results of both investigations included in annex. The call for tenders was complemented with another annex, providing general guidance on reclamation and reuse (dismantling and conditioning tips, useful tools, references, etc.).

The reclamation audit was structure into three different categories:                                                                                                   

  1. Most promising materials: which were present in large quantities in the building and which had a high reuse potential confirmed by prior investigations (i.e. the dismantling tests and/or the confirmation of the existence of a stable demand on the market for those).
  2. Materials with an estimated reuse potential: but for which the potential had not been investigated further, and/or present in smaller quantities in the building.
  3. Other materials, with a small reuse potential: more depending on specific opportunities than on a stable market demand.

Such a table helped the contracting authority to prioritise the actions and express the targets for the tenderers accordingly.

Technical specifications:

The reclamation targets were expressed under two forms in the tender document.

First, some targets were formulated as technical specifications, with a minimal quantitative target to be reached. This concerned more specifically three large batches of materials, with a very high reuse potential (category A):

  1. Cast-iron radiators (two different types), for which at least 80% of the pieces needed to be reclaimed for reuse.
  2. Structural timber in the roof, for which at least 50% of the total volume was to be reclaimed for reuse.
  3. Enamelled wall covering tiles, for which at least 50% of the surface was to be reclaimed for reuse.

These targets were based on the preliminary studies (reclamation audit and dismantling tests). They were conservative estimations, considering the possibility of a loss rate during the dismantling of the materials (breaking pieces, for instance).

Award criteria:

Second, there was also an award criterion related to the reclamation efforts. Tenderers were invited to commit to achieve better reclamation rates than the minimal targets for the three main batches of reusable materials but they could also commit to reclaim other batches mentioned in the reclamation audit (categories B and C that included metallic staircases, handrail, guardrail, antique windows, lighting, doors and sanitary equipment).

Social clauses:

The cooperative company Relais 2D assisted the SERS for the social clauses. Members of Relais 2D are local authorities and economic actors from Strasbourg and the Lower Rhine region. Relais 2D supports the inclusion of environmental and social clauses in construction tenders. These social clauses are aligned with the new social inclusion clause that was integrated in April 2021 into the national general administrative terms and conditions that apply to different types of public procurement including project design and construction supervision. The social inclusion clause aims to promote access to employment or a return to employment for people who are experiencing difficulties in finding work. As well as people who are: long-term jobseekers, recipients of the active solidarity income or minimum social benefits, and persons recognised as workers with disabilities. It also includes young people who left school without qualifications, or without work experience and who have been unemployed for more than six months, and persons covered by a scheme for integration through economic activity.

Relais 2D defined beforehand the minimum number of hours to be performed with an integration action, according to the estimated amount and the nature of the works to be carried out. The bidders had to indicate in their offer the number of hours they plan to do, with a minimum set at 300 hours, knowing that they could propose more hours than the minimum, which improves their score. Integration action was carried out according to one of the five methods defined below:

  1. 1st modality: subcontracting or co-contracting with an integration structure,
  2. 2nd modality:  use of an organisation that makes employees available for work integration (such as a temporary work integration company, or an intermediary association),
  3. 3rd modality: direct hiring by the company holding the contract,
  4. 4th modality:  use of an organisation for the provision of employees, such as a temporary employment agency,
  5. 5th modality:  use of an employers' grouping for integration and qualification

The assessment and monitoring of the social clause were organised by Relais 2D.

Weighting system:

The following weighting system was used:

  • Price (55 points)
  • technical value of the proposal (45 points), namely
    • the intervention method, including extracting of materials for the local reclamation sector and waste treatment, the specific means adopted, and the general organisation of the company (25 points)
    • Volumes of reclaimed materials (10 points)
    • Detailed intervention schedule (10 points)


A site visit was organised for the candidates before submitting their bids. All four bidders that submitted an offer complied with the minimal requirements.

Some bidders committed to go further than the requirements in terms of reclamation. Price-wise, the different offers were very comparable for some operations, but also presented more important divergences for others. The dismantling of the mural tiles, for instance, varied between 16 and 25 €/m² (with an average at 20 €/m²). While the dismantling of the structural timber, however, varied between 20 and 175 €/m³ (with an average at 126 €/m³).

These differences can be explained by the fact that these operations are relatively new. For some demolition companies that already have some experience in reclamation can estimate their costs based on their experience. While for others the topic is newer, and may take additional security measures when setting their prices. Another important factor is how these companies can estimate the potential retail value of the batches of reclaimed materials. Bidders were indeed asked to establish their prices considering the possibility to sell the material afterwards. Some were more confident than others that the sale of the batches would cover the extra costs entailed by a more careful dismantling.

The tenderer who was awarded the contract, the demolition company SAS Lingenheld, was not the most ambitious in terms of reclamation targets. In their offer, they stated that they would reach the minimal target. Their offer was the best value-for-money.

The dismantling work started in August 2020 and ended in June 2021.

During the execution of the contract they managed to go further than initially planned. The dismantling of the initial batches was as efficient as planned, with satisfactory recovery rates. The contractor also managed to contact a professional dealer ready to buy the batches of dismantled materials at an interesting price. The enamelled wall covering tiles were sold to the Dutch company Jan Van Ijken Oude Bouwmaterialen, who replicated the pattern of the floor tiles in its showroom shop. They also bought some washbasins dismantled by the demolition company. Wood timbers were sold to a Spanish reseller specialised in antique materials. In the end, more batches of materials could successfully be reclaimed for reuse than what was initially planned. The sale of the materials was implicitly factored in the offers, the bidders had to assess whether they would succeed in selling the materials and for how much.

As required by the social clause, SAS Lingenheld subcontracted an integration structure (first modality). They were in charge of dismantling the wall tiles. 328 hours were allocated to this social integration, above the minimum 300 hours set as a requirement.

Environmental impacts

In terms of reclamation for reuse, the most immediate environmental benefit was waste prevention. Enabling the reuse of a material makes it possible to lengthen their use value, and avoid wasting useful resources. The main indicator chosen to monitor the results of the project was thus the quantities of materials reclaimed for reuse (expressed in tonnes).

Rotor created and updated a document tracking the quantities of materials recovered as operations were progressing on site.  In total, 51 tonnes of materials could be reclaimed for reuse instead of being discarded as waste. In this case, since no same-site reuse was planned, most of these materials were bought or recovered by professional dealers who ensure their subsequent resale (most of the time after performing operations such as a thorough cleaning, a careful sorting, documentation, storage, etc.).

The environmental benefits go further than just waste prevention.  Reused materials substitute for new ones. Hence, the environmental burden arising from the production of new materials (raw resources extraction, emissions of greenhouse gases, etc.) are also avoided. However, and even though there are still ongoing discussions as to how the environmental benefit should be calculated in multi-cycles scenarios, it is common to credit these benefits to the actual reusers (rather than to the reclaimers). 

Picture of a table content
NextMed FCRBE pilot operation

Lessons learned

→ It seems indispensable to conduct a reclamation audit as early as possible. This usually takes a few days of work (depending of course on the scale of the operations and the complexity of the audited building). Detailed inventories can take up to a few weeks. They are best conducted as upstream as possible so that their results can trickle down the whole chain of operations. Typically, a reclamation audit can be annexed to the call for tenders for the architecture mission, so that the tenderers can already include on-site reuse opportunities in the early design sketches. In this case, the radiators and floor tiles could not be reused on-site because the architects chose a floor heating system.

→In this case, the reclamation audit was carried out by Rotor, as part of a pilot operation within the FCRBE project. However, more and more experts are providing this service on the market, which can be contracted as it is common to do for other forms of expertise (surveyors, engineers, etc.). Professional building developers can also build up the necessary expertise in house.

→ It is interesting to have a good understanding of how the reclamation sector works (types of materials commonly reclaimed, conditions, etc.). In specific instances, it may be interesting to conduct a market 

consultation prior to procuring the (demolition) works. General tools such as the website can be useful resources to provide information on this sector (directory of companies, documentation, etc.).

→ As more businesses are able to provide material reclamation services, these companies can be listed in a directory of material reclaimers. Such a directory could help public procurers in the region embed reclamation targets in their call for tenders. This in turn, can promote the adoption of circular public procurement practices in the construction sector.

→ When the reuse potential is confirmed through a careful audit and additional tests, it is possible to set reclamation targets as technical specifications.

→ Incentivizing bidders to achieve a higher share of reclaimed materials through a specific award criterion can lead to more reclaimed materials.

→ When the targets are set in the offer, they become contractual. Therefore, they need to be monitored all along the execution of the contract. An important aspect to monitor is the quantities effectively reclaimed, especially if they are a contractual target. On the other hand, attention should be paid to the fact that materials are effectively reclaimed for reuse and not discarded as waste (evidence can be a picture of the material effectively reused, a proof of a transaction with a professional reclamation dealer, etc.). Making it a recurring point at the agenda of the site meetings can be a good habit to keep the topic live and running. Penalties can be foreseen if the expected results are not reached (materials discarded as waste instead of being reclaimed, for instance). Materials discarded as waste can be avoided by companies whose core-business is to put reusable materials back on the market and who have the facilities and the know-how to take care of the materials.

More information

Contact persons: Sebastien Bruxer, Société d’Aménagement et d’Equipement de la Région de Strasbourg (SERS); Eric Hartweg, Société d’Aménagement et d’Equipement de la Région de Strasbourg (SERS) and Gaspard Geerts, Rotor.

For related information, please see EU GPP criteria for Office Building Design, Construction and Management and the Technical Background Report (currently under revision).