The new taphouse for the Braunstein Brewery in the coastal city of Køge, Denmark, was made with the end of its life in mind. A simple steel structure with modular windows, unfinished wood, and all of its components fastened together with removable bolts and screws, the building was designed to be disassembled.
This is partly a practicality, according to architect Anders Lonka, whose Copenhagen-based firm Adept designed the building. The taphouse’s harborside location, about 25 miles southwest of Copenhagen, is slated to be part of Køge’s climate adaptation strategy some time in the next decade, and the whole area could be fortified or refashioned in such a way that the taphouse would have to go. Rather than constructing a building that may soon be torn down, Adept created a design that could, when needed, be easily taken apart. “Design for disassembly was a key factor from the beginning,” Lonka says.
The other reason for this approach is related but perhaps more important, according to Lonka. By designing for disassembly, the building uses materials and construction techniques that greatly reduce its overall environmental footprint. And that’s especially true when compared to conventional construction with materials that are hard to reuse, like concrete. Most of the materials used in the taphouse, such as its sustainably forested wood, have lower embodied carbon on the production side, and because they are assembled in a way that allows for upcycling later, the environmental footprint they do have can be spread out over a longer lifespan. Plus, the materials won’t have to be simply dumped in a landfill after the building is eventually taken down. Instead of being demolished with a wrecking ball, the building can be unscrewed and its pieces reused.
Disassembling a building is inevitably more time-consuming than knocking it down, and therefore more expensive. But if it’s designed from the start to eventually be upcycled, the money spent taking the building apart can be earned back through the value of the deconstructed parts. Lonka says green building techniques and energy efficiency are increasingly common in architecture, but more attention should focus on accounting for the full life cycle of buildings and materials. “What’s needed at the moment and what we should all be better at is making a lower footprint when we build,” Lonka says.
A building designed for disassembly is also easier to maintain, Lonka says. Because they’re mechanically bolted together and not covered up by plasters or finishings, components like window brackets and wall pieces can be easily replaced. The simplicity of the construction and the emphasis on unfinished materials means that the building itself is more transparent. “It’s a very easy building to understand,” Lonka says. “You see the structure, you see how it’s put together, you see the elements of the building. Things are no longer hidden.” The concept works well for this scale of building, at just two stories, but may be harder to achieve in larger projects that require more substantial concrete foundations. But Lonka notes that innovations in timber architecture could mean that taller buildings will be able to be constructed in ways that allow for their eventual disassembly.
Across design, other practitioners have begun reckoning with the disposability of objects, from electronics to household appliances to fashion. Lonka says thinking about the afterlife of a building should become a more common practice in architecture, and it’s already been integrated into other projects Adept is designing in Denmark and Germany. “It’s really about rethinking how we build and rethinking how we use materials and products,” Lonka says. “I think this is the new way of doing things, hopefully not only for us.”
How long the taphouse will remain in its current form on its current site is still undetermined. But Lonka says it will be ready for its next life, whatever and wherever that turns out to be.