BC Materials: Back to earth!

Sustainable building in Brussels via urban mining, using traditional building techniques. That’s the idea behind BC Materials, the innovative brainchild of four architects. The quatuor gives a modern touch to African building techniques, through the reuse of basic materials such as earth and loam soil. A solid foundation for a bright future!

On many building sites, earth is excavated and removed to make way for foundations, basements, etc. – never to be reused. That’s of course a real shame, especially considering earth and clay are actually excellent raw materials for the production of bricks. This is, in fact, exactly what BC Materials does! They recycle this otherwise discarded material – and with using a fraction of the energy when compared to conventional building materials.

The result: fully circular, carbon-neutral building materials with a small carbon footprint. That’s the simple, yet ingenious idea of Nicolas Coeckelberghs, Ken Cooman, Laurens Bekemans and Wes Degreef, co-founders of BC Materials. In Europe, they are the absolute frontrunners in the (re)introduction of these kinds of traditional building materials and techniques.

They got their inspiration in Africa – where BC Architects, the architectural firm of the duo, has been working successfully for some time now. In recent years, they’ve made their way through the entire continent – from Nigeria and Morocco to Burundi and Rwanda – to master the art of building with clay soil. They brought this wealth of knowledge and experience to Belgium, where every year no less than 37 million tons of earth is excavated – and simply dumped somewhere. About 70% of it is considered waste, never to be used again. These numbers are what motivated the four architects to get straight down to business with BC Materials.

Brussels, sustainable soil

“Loam and other soils are modern and versatile building materials, which are also suitable for an urban environment like Brussels,”

Nicolas Coeckelberghs.

But does this young, unique spin-off have potential and margin for growth? At present, the company can produce “only” 1400 bricks per day, but that will soon change. “We have plans to start scaling up and tripling production. That way the price per brick can go down, while maintaining the quality.”

BC Materials is currently joining forces with Natura Mater, a sector partner that can also count on advice and guidance from hub.brussels. Nicolas outlines the advantages of a partnership: “Natura Mater offers a great platform and an ecosystem for the promotion and distribution of sustainable building materials. This way we benefit from additional visibility, and we can also better reach large construction companies.”

BC Materials has a production facility in the Brussels Canal Zone, as well as a mobile production unit to produce building materials on site – at the construction site itself. This keeps the transport of raw materials and building materials to an absolute minimum, contributing to the circular philosophy behind BC Materials.