Can recycled timber be reused?

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

An international consortium including scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology is working on a method to test whether used timber is suitable for re-use in construction. The Ti-ReX project includes the selection of tests to assess the strength, fire resistance and moisture content of wood, as well as the data processing procedure for risk assessment.

The repeatable method will be used to assess both entire buildings and individual elements. Load-bearing, stabilizing, fire-resistance, thermally and acoustically insulating and aesthetic elements are made of wood. However, the pursuit of sustainable development must not jeopardize safety. Engineers emphasize that a load-bearing wooden element can be reused only after its structural and fire-resistance properties are confirmed.

'We want to enable widespread reuse of load-bearing and non-load-bearing wooden structural elements both in the original building with the same or changed configuration, and in other buildings', says the head of the Polish part of the project, Dr. Jan Pełczyński from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology. He adds that there is currently no method for comprehensively assessing the properties once a wood product has reached the end of its use.

Specialists from Poland, Finland, Norway, Latvia, Slovenia and Spain are joining forces to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the construction industry and reduce the demand for new raw materials - for the sake of forests and forest resources. The coordinator of the Ti-ReX project is Dr. Katarzyna Ostapska from the Norwegian organization SINTEF and a graduate of Warsaw University of Technology.


The researchers will select a set of non-destructive tests that are best suited to assess the wood's density, stiffness, strength, fire resistance, moisture content and defects. It is important that such tests can be carried out both where the timber is located and in laboratory conditions. In parallel, they will develop a data processing procedure to best assess the risk of reusing the used material in subsequent buildings.

The set of selected procedures will be tested during the adaptation of a 5-story wooden office building located in Norway. The case study will enable the assessment of the circular cycle of timber. Scientists will develop a procedure for assessing the life cycle of long-use wood products. They will examine the risks of repeatedly reusing and recycling wood. The final stage of the project will be the preparation of documentation and guidelines for the certification of recycled timber.

Ti-Rex is one of three projects involving Polish researchers, selected in the ForestValue2 Call 2023 competition.

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