Reusing 3,000 bricks: from a sports field to public housing

31 October 2023

Uppsalahem is set to renovate million-program facades in the Gottsunda district in Uppsala using surplus bricks from a sports facility in Stockholm. The nearly 3,000 bricks were once manufactured right in the Uppsala region and were transported back last summer. Let’s find out more about this excellent example of reusing building materials in housing, collaborative working, and commitment to sustainability.

“This is true recycling! The bricks at the sports facility had served for over 90 years and were potentially facing being discarded as landfill material somewhere. Now, they have a chance to adorn facades in their hometown,” said Lars Gustafsson, project manager at Uppsalahem.

The history

In the mid-1800s, Uppsala played a significant role in Sweden’s industrialisation. The clay of the plains was particularly suitable for brick manufacturing, and by the turn of the century, Uppsala was a major supplier of bricks.

Bergsbrunna bruk – a brickwork located in Bergsbrunna – was one of the larger manufacturers.  It reached its production peak in the early 1970s when it produced up to 18 million bricks per year, supplying construction projects throughout the Mälardalen region. At the time, Bergsbrunna bruk specialised in yellow facade bricks, which are often found in buildings from the 1960s and 1970s. Production continued until the mid-1980s.

Therefore, when the residential area of Gottsunda in Uppsala was being built in the early 1970s, the natural choice was to use these yellow bricks.

Reusing bricks as building materials in public housing projects. Two images showing brick manufacturing in the region

 Photos: From clay to bricks in Bergsbrunna bruk.

The challenge

It started when property manager Adam Forsberg encountered facade damage issues in Gottsunda. The houses were constructed in 1974 and parts of the facades – featuring the yellow bricks from Bergsbrunna bruk – now needed to be replaced.

Photo: Uppsalahem

Uppsalahem had previously worked on restoring a facade after a fire in Gottsunda. During that project, the project leader Chalalai Chaichaowarat and property manager Maeva Hachem found bricks in the same colour, height, and depth as the existing bricks. However, the length differed by 25 millimetres. This may seem like a small difference, but a variation in brick length can shift the masonry courses and create a “joint” in the facade. Therefore, it was necessary to cut the new stones.

The opportunity: reusing building materials

For the new project, it turned out that the sports field in Kristineberg (Stockholm) was also undergoing renovation. Some of the original material included Bergsbrunna bricks from Uppsala, still in good condition. These were offered to Uppsalahem to reuse in the facades in Gottsunda.

A sample was transported to Uppsala and a match was confirmed! Hands were shaken, and property manager Anton Forsberg was satisfied.

The solution

In a careful disassembly and selection process, the best bricks from the sports field were preserved. However, where do you store nearly 3,000 bricks? The plan was to keep them in a decommissioned hospital, but with too little notice, a truck full of bricks arrived in Uppsalahem!

Property caretaker Daniel Östlund sprung into action to clear an overgrown parking space, level it out, and start the unloading process with property manager Wissam Hariz. So now, the bricks from Bergsbrunna have returned home and get a chance to serve in their hometown.

How did the project contribute to Uppsalahem’s goals?

Here are Lars Gustafsson’s conclusions:

Employees: “A true collaboration. Creative thinking, harnessing experiences, finding common solutions across ‘boundaries’, and helping when needed. The bricks united us in what makes a great workplace.”

Economy: “We haven’t calculated the details, but the cost is lower than buying new bricks and customising them. Above all, we have conserved resources.”

Sustainability: “This is real recycling! The bricks at the sports field has served for over 90 years and were on the verge of possibly becoming landfill material somewhere. Now, they have a chance to adorn facades in their hometown.”

Customers: “An organisation that has pulled this off is evidence that good things are being done every day, both big and small, for our customers.”

Find out more

To find out more about this initiative, please contact Uppsalahem’s Coordinator through the Members Only Zone. If you are not yet a member of Eurhonet, find out how to join us.

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