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Hackathon in Copenhagen re-imagines partition walls for circularity

Updated: May 2, 2021

This is an image of the rendering of a modular wall prototype made of three different materials.

A key part of circular construction is design for disassembly (DfD), which is the concept that buildings are designed to facilitate material recovery by enabling separation of various parts of the buildings (in whole or part). It is based on a growing recognition that the majority of buildings have limited lifespans and use requirements can change, therefore we need to think of our buildings as ‘banks’ of material resources and plan for this during the design process.

However, this can be challenging to achieve using current products and systems which have been optimised for initial construction but can be complex to separate. Complexity can lead to higher costs and longer timescales, which become barriers and deterrents for disassembly for materials recovery.

One part of buildings where this is a particular challenge is gypsum partition walls, which are also frequently replaced. The typical partition wall today is constructed by a steel stud frame mounted with two layers of gypsum boards that are spackled and then painted. Constructed in this way, it is practically impossible to disassemble without damaging all of the components that make up the wall.

However, with some relatively small design changes and/or interventions it could be possible to make these parts circular, and hackathons are a great opportunity to develop prototypes and solutions that apply more radical suggestions to traditional approaches. So for their first hackathon, ‘Camp Circular Construction’, Copenhagen partners GXN and Maker set the brief to re-imagine how the typical partition wall is constructed to enable circularity.

Following an open call for applications, two teams of architects were invited to participate:

Group 1: Emma Buchanan, Katarina Kierulfova, Lukasz Marczuk, Jan Dankmeyer

Group 2: Ali Mirakbari, Sarah Gruenbaum Tonnesen, Hessam Dadkhah, Lauge Floris Larsen, Catherine Greiner

The architects hailed from a wide range of practices from start-ups to international firms including KANT arkitekter, Street Earth, Mellow Designs and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

The hackathon opened with a series of presentations on circular construction, DfD and partition walls by experienced practitioners from BLOXHUB, GXN and Vivihouse. After a series of working sessions and mid-project check-ins, the two groups presented their proposals.

The first group proposed the ‘Plug’N’Wall’, a modular wall system that offers many possibilities of size, materials and use.

Two images of the prototype Plug'N'Wall that shows the many uses and possibilities for a modular wall system developed for the hackathon including in a kitchen, a practice room, a space for relaxing.
Images of the Plug'N'Wall concept by Group 1

The second group presented ‘sPIN WALL’, an adjustable system with various hacks into installation and joints combined with the use of sustainable materials.

Two rendered images of a room: the first one shows the insulation and infill using sustainable materials and the second shows that the design for disassembly wall partitions that can cover the infill.
Renders of Group 2's 'sPIN WALL' concept

After a round of final presentations, Plug’N’Wall was declared the winner. The judges said that ultimately the main factor was that it, to a larger degree, relied on already existing available market-ready products, which resonated with those in industry. But both groups had provided great solutions to the brief, emphasising the importance of enabling the joining systems to be easily disassembled to allow for future use of the wall and its materials.

A job well done to both groups!

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