Tim Weijers is deputy mayor and the local councillor responsible for spatial planning and housing in Kerkrade. Kerkrade local council is a Super Circular Estate project partner and Lead partner for an UIA subsidy.
1) Why did your city decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?
The town of Kerkrade is located in a region currently experiencing shrinkage. As a result of this decrease in population and the accompanying reduced and altered housing requirements, we have already gone through and are still in the process of implementing a number of large scale restructuring projects. Currently we are busy with a restructuring project in the neighbourhood of Bleijerheide (www.superlocal.eu), and we also have a few more large scale restructuring schemes in the pipeline. During the initial projects we increasingly realised how much the world constantly changes and that we cannot just go on endlessly demolishing and rebuilding homes. Mother Earth’s material supplies are not limitless. Demolition also destroys social structures which cannot simply be reinstated. This would be a highly undesirable situation.
We therefore need to be careful with our current material use, social capital and other values related to the restructuring locations. This requires a new and innovative approach; an approach which until now has never been seen on this scale. We are endeavouring to achieve a super circular estate: highly ambitious reuse at a restructuring location. This means preserving the full individual spatial qualities present in the old situation, reusing building materials, social structures and values, as well as reusing materials in the public space. We aim to achieve this in new forms of collaboration and processes to be developed.
We needed innovative support to do this: the UIA programme!
I am proud to relate here that we have managed, in collaboration with 12 regional partners, to set up a powerful experimental and innovative project plan: The Super Circular estate.
2) What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project towards a more Circular Economy?
The project aims to handle materials, values and qualities in the area with absolute care. For example we strive to achieve the following:
- A closed water circuit, using rainwater exclusively as drinking water, 'grey' water for local use and 'black' water for generating energy: this must be achieved by combining existing methods, and must result in a new and innovative local water chain.
- The realisation of four homes entirely constructed from the waste created by demolishing the flats at Jonkerbergstraat: creating homes from demolition waste. Where this is not possible, the materials will be complemented by new circular materials. We see it as a stepping stone to the future. In this context the existing housing stock could be considered as one enormous material bank.
- Retaining the social structures with an invitation to the previous residents to return: resident retention in a shrinking area is highly desirable. It is one way to control population shrinkage in a region and to maintain the valuable existing (social) structures.
- Reconfiguring the public space using existing materials: existing materials in the public space can be reused for the same functions in the area, as well as for other uses. For example, tests are currently being carried out into the suitability of demolition rubble for reuse in gabions.
3) What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?
We hope to use the knowledge and experience acquired in this project in comparable projects in our town and across the Parkstad Limburg region.
4) Any conclusion words for our readers?
An area will arise in the neighbourhood Bleijerheide over the next few years where social cohesion, innovative and circular building and living the 21st century way will be key.