Concept, Necessity & Scope

Decommissioning of conventional buildings:

The decommissioning of conventional buildings is a task that needs as much accurate planning and execution as new construction projects. The applicable laws, regulations, and standards are extensive, country-specific, and subject to constant updating and changes.

The significance of decommissioning conventional buildings is illustrated in the following table. Germany produces approx. 209,000 million tons of “construction and demolition waste” per annum. In 2015, this amount corresponded to 52% of the entire waste volume. These facts result in a huge research potential when evaluated in relation to the Waste Management and Product Recycling Act and the recycling quotas. This involves the mechanic separation of different wastes, optimization of environmental impact, burdens resulting from demolition works, as well as automation, remote-handling, and the general handling of “hazardous wastes”. It is vital to seize this potential, to develop optimization approaches, and realize pilot projects.

This professorship targets exactly these specific topics and aims at standardizing the demolition of buildings. This includes, among others, pollutant clean-up with automated procedures incl. remote-controlled handling, as well as the further development of existing machines. Consequently, the risks for the personnel handling the hazardous substances can be significantly reduced. 

As a matter of fact, the terms demolition, decommissioning, and dismantling are often used interchangeably, however, they represent individual processes with their own precise definition: Both decommissioning and dismantling are subdivisions of demolition, which serves as the generic term. Demolition work can either be done conventionally, e.g. through crushing, or selectively, i.e. clean material separation, either in part or whole.

Before selective demolition and decommissioning processes can take place, the treatment of hazardous waste or contaminants as well as the requirements for clean collection and disposal of demolition material need to be considered prior to the work. This makes the demolition of conventional buildings an exciting subject with extensive research potential.

In future, the refurbishment of existing buildings as well as building on “brown fields” will gain more and more importance. In order to tackle all these demands, the Institute of Technology and Management in Construction has established a professorship dedicated to these future-oriented topics with respect to research, science, and teaching.

More than ever, today’s graduates need to be well-trained generalists with knowledge in the fields of construction, operation, and decommissioning of buildings. This is further illustrated in an excerpt of a survey of universities and other higher education institutions about the topic “Demolition subjects in construction engineering”. The survey reveals that the subjects of “demolition” and “decommissioning” as well as other deconstruction subjects are not fully covered. Generally, in-depth lectures on decommissioning are not available.

Survey of universities and other higher education institutions: “Demolition subjects in construction engineering”

Do your lectures cover the subjects demolition/decommissioning/mechanic demolition/demolition machines/construction blasting/concrete drilling and sawing/recycling/waste management?

Reference: Dr. rer. nat. Klaus Konertz I Dipl.-Ing. Marcel Schröder (Fachtagung Abbruch und Rückbau 2013)

We offer lectures for all these subjects and educate young graduates in these important and sustainable subjects. To offer students both a broad overview and specialized insight in to this subject, there is our module “Methods for environment-friendly and recyclable dismantling of buildings” and additional lectures on project studies and process engineering in dismantling.

  • Current state of science and technology
  • Mechanical demolition, transport, preparation, land filling, and disposal
  • From the application for demolition projects to machine deployment planning
  • Occupational safety and immission control
  • Handling of hazardous substances
  • Legal aspects and requirements
  • Land filling regulations and standards of “The Association of German Engineers (VDI)”
  • Calculations with practical examples
  • Excursions



Decommissioning of nuclear facilities:

There is an increasing public interest in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, not only because of their limited life cycle but also because of the German government's decision to phase out nuclear energy. For engineers, decommissioning projects pose very complex problems, entailing countless conditions that are always subject to change and need to be integrated into the process nonetheless. Standard construction machinery is often used in decommissioning projects, however, for every different application they need to be modified, developed, extended with additional sensors, etc. Depending on the nuclear facility’s construction type, the decommissioning cost amount to several million Euro per facility.

The fact that all German nuclear facilities are to be shut down by 2022 and the use of nuclear power will be discontinued, has found its way into the focus of the German public. Today, 449 nuclear facilities are in use worldwide. A current estimate assumes that by 2040 approx. 200 reactors will be shut down. The cost for the decommissioning of international nuclear facilities is estimated at more than 100 bn. US$. However, some costs cannot be calculated yet due to the lack of experience in decontamination processes. Also, there are no clear plans for the future use of former nuclear facility sites. (Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 2014).

All these facts and topics sum up to an extensive research scope with massive potential.

The professorship focuses on three aspects in research and teaching in the field of decommissioning nuclear plants: 

  1. Building a technical and scientific team at KIT that leads the way both on a national and international level
  2. Developing decomissioning technologies with a high degree of practical relevance (pilot projects)
  3. Establishing a major field of study for this topic

The focus lies on the development of new decommissioning technologies with a significant practical relevance (pilot projects) for outstanding problems, including large-scale testing. The practical tests can be carried out on TMB’s large open-air testing site or in the associated work shop, respectively.

With our module “Decommissioning of Nuclear Facilities” with lectures on dismantling and decontamination of nuclear plants, new developments, optimizations in mechanical engineering for dismantling and decommissioning projects, we offer both a broad overview and specialized insight in to this subject:

  • Structure and operation of a NPP
  • Radiation, radiation protection, and measurement technology
  • Approval planning
  • Decontamination, surface treatment, and remote handling technologies
  • Demolition and deconstruction methods
  • Separation of steel and reinforced steel
  • Conditioning and final storage
  • Management of the entire decommissioning life cycle
  • Excursions to decommissioning sites