Rethinking the way we build with concrete.


June 2023 marked the start of RECONSTRUCT, a European research project, led by ITeC and supported by 16 partners from across the continent. VUB participates in the project with three research groups: Architectural Engineering (ARCH), Mechanics of Materials and Constructions (MEMC), and Physical Chemistry and Polymer Science (FYSC).

The project's central objective is to transform the way we build with concrete: generating fewer emissions and less waste. The project explores three ways to get there: material innovation, design for deconstruction, and digitalization.

Material innovation

Cement and reinforcement steel are the two materials that most contribute to the carbon footprint of concrete. The Reconstruct partners are testing low-carbon alternatives, either recycled or bio-based, to replace both.

To remove the ordinary Portland cement from the manufacturing process, the VUB team is developing an innovative concrete based on alkali-activated cement with ground granulated blast furnace and pre-treated biomass ash as precursors and alkaline activator. The production of this material only generates one-fifth of the GHG emissions of ordinary cement and contributes to the circular economy as it contains large amounts of industrial by-products.

VUB also leads activities for the Brussels Demonstrator, working together with local stakeholders to pioneer a lightweight and modular sandwich floor system using recycled concrete and textile materials like glass fiber, to replace the steel reinforcement bars.

Design for deconstruction

Changing the composition of concrete is one thing, but it is not enough. The way we build with concrete today, pouring it together into one big monolith, only allows for recycling of the material, not reuse. And that must change.

The Reconstruct partners, therefore, envision a shift to prefabrication and modularity in the design of concrete structures: conceiving them as a kit of parts, that is easy to take apart when the building’s time is up. In the Brussels Demonstrator, VUB is testing how these prefab building systems can make a difference.


To complement the technical strategies, Reconstruct also dives into the digital world, using product passports and digital twinning to track materials through the value network. With the use of digital tools and AI-based technology, we help to build solid supply chains for waste materials, in Brussels and Barcelona.

Want to get on board as we rewrite the script for concrete? Then get in contact:

Or follow our activities :