Two people in front of a computer.

Exploring the Possi­bi­lities of Circu­larity of Construction Materials: Inter­na­tional Workshop in Austria

Inter­na­tional colla­bo­ration for expertise sharing is an effective way to explore new ideas and challenges while acknow­ledging contextual barriers simul­ta­neously. The ‘Sustai­nable Building Techno­logies- Community of Practice’ (SBTCP) project by Karelia UAS in colla­bo­ration with Salzburg UAS (Austria) and Jade UAS (Germany) is an effective approach towards encou­raging innovation to solve real-time challenges. The one-week workshop for Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Program (BIP) supported by SBTCP was a fruitful method to bring students from different countries together and opened the window for cross-border idea sharing amongst young minds.

Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Program in Salzburg UAS, Austria

Ryhmäkuva työpajan osallistujista ulkona, taustalla vuoristomaisema
Figure 1. Partici­pating students and staff members from three partnering countries (Finland, Austria and Germany).

Figure 01 shows the partici­pants of the workshop from three partnering countries. The workshop took place in Salzburg UAS, Kuchl, Austria, starting from the 23rd of May 2022 till the 27th of May 2022. Staff and student participant number from partnering countries was as follows: 18+2 (Germany), 12+3 (Finland), and 10+2 (Austria). There were multiple activities such as a guided tour to Holz Meiss­nitzer GmbH and SIGES GmbH- companies specia­lizing in wood construction, lecture sessions on the circular economy and case study analysis of an existing building located in Salzburg UAS campus, Kuchl. Partici­pants also created data for Building Infor­mation Modelling (BIM) and proposed possible scenarios for circu­larity or reuse of construction materials. Finally there was an online presen­tation by the students after the workshop. Figure 02 shows how the focus areas of the partnering countries in SBTCP project developed the concept of the workshop.

Circular figure.
Figure 2. Diagram showing focus areas aligning with SBTCP project for the workshop in Salzburg UAS.

On the intro­duction day of the workshop, activities included outdoor dinner and informal discussion amongst teachers and students, which was an effective way for icebreaking amongst the students. The first day of the workshop started with a presen­tation by students from each partici­pating country on the circular economy from each country’s perspective (see figure 03). Later the presen­ta­tions, the students were divided into four groups taking students from each partnering country. The students worked closely with students from cross borders; therefore, the teamwork motivated them to commu­nicate in English, which is crucial for presen­tation skill development on inter­na­tional platforms.

Luokkatila jossa opiskelijat pitävät esitystä valkotaulun edessä, opiskelijoita istuu seuraamassa esitystä.
Figure 3. Students’ presen­tation focusing on current practices of circular economy in each context.

The students had the privilege to experience the most updated techniques of Building Infor­mation Modeling (BIM) from Jade UAS for point-cloud-based modeling; which allowed them to collect building data using a laser scanner and drone. The students also studied existing drawings of the case study buildings to explore how and to what extent materials can be reused for similar purposes or developed into new materials and products. 

The students presented their ideas online on the 8th of June 2022. The findings indicated the strong potential of incor­po­rating BIM and improved wood products for the effective and sustai­nable circu­larity of timber and wood materials. The comment section by the teachers also initiated good ground for discus­sions with students as followings:

  1. What are the student’s percep­tions of the adopted technique of collecting data from existing drawings of buildings? Would it be more effective and time-efficient if each material data was embedded into the digital building drawings beforehand?
  2. How are the students thinking of reuse and recycling techniques of building materials?
  3. What are the student’s approaches towards circu­larity thinking of building materials consi­dering economic value, carbon footprint, acces­si­bility of services, etc. 

Cross-border Idea Sharing and Educa­tional Development

The workshop supported by the SBTCP project shed light on the signi­ficance of the project itself, and how the current challenges related to resource problems can be addressed effec­tively through inter­na­tio­na­lizing the best practices. The inter­na­tional colla­bo­ration also allowed the teachers to have a better insight into what to include in future BIPs or internship projects with upcoming students. The workshop also contri­buted to better team-building amongst the partnering countries from further research topics and development perspec­tives. It allowed the experts to have a better insight of best practices available and how to incor­porate the expertise in future research, therefore improving the possi­bility of practice-oriented community development with new students, researchers, and experts.


Shammi Akter Keya, Project Researcher, Karelia UAS