CIRCULAR ECONOMY FOR AFFORDABLE, LOW-CARBON SECONDARY RAW MATERIALS

INITIATOR FUND 

Project period: February – June 2019 

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Pete Walker, Stephen Allen  
University of Bristol:  Steve Eichhorn, Rinat Nigmatullin 
Cardiff University: Eshrar Latif, Marianna Marchesi 
University of Exeter: Raffaele Vinai (PI), Matt Eames, Peter Hopkinson  

Project overview 

The project will focus on materials, processes, technologies and systems to enable up-cycling of industrial waste and agricultural co-products into valuable components, fostering circular economic solutions for sustainable building products. 

Background 

Waste and co-products management is a pressing issue, as well as the need for low cost, low carbon, safe and locally available building materials with improved thermal insulation properties.  

The 2008 Climate Change Act declares a target reduction of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050. The built environment is responsible for some 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. Energy consumption, and associated greenhouse gas emissions, is derived from whole life cycle, including manufacture of products, construction, maintenance and disassembly (e.g. embodied energy) as well as operational energy during building’s use. For these reasons, the project will have a specific focus on the construction sector.  

The consortium aimed to investigate alternative secondary raw materials and agricultural co-products for development of safe, affordable and sustainable materials and products with positive local, national, regional and global impacts. These solutions are needed to meet demands of booming urbanisation rates in developing countries to provide safe and affordable housing for all, relevant for tackling global issues in line with GCRF and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action). The consortium’s expertise on embodied energy and energy consumption during building life will drive the research direction towards energy- and cost-efficient end-products.   

The research aligns with various EPSRC themes (Resource efficiency, Manufacturing technologies, Built environment), as well as with the ISCF Grand Challenge Clean Growth. Furthermore, the project focus is in line with a number of other themes set by the Industrial Strategy White Paper, such as Transforming construction, Moving towards a regenerative circular economy, Raising resource productivity, Construction Sector Deal.  

A number of European policies (the 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive, and the 2008 Raw Materials Initiative) are relevant and focussed on the proposed research area. 

Project summary 

Over the course of the project the community was able to grow and reinforce network links through a series of research workshops. The workshops allowed the consortium to compile a road map detailing industrial engagement, pressing research questions, technologies with higher potential, and available funding schemes, and to outline and develop project proposals and publications. This has resulted in several grant applications and future plans for the community’s growth and involvement in the circular economy research area. 

The ISCF Grand Challenge “Clean Growth” was the main focus of the work, as the research ideas that were developed aligned with the topics ‘development, manufacture and use of low carbon technologies that cost less than high carbon alternatives’, ‘Low carbon technologies and efficient use of resources’, ‘Bio-economy – use of renewable biological resources to produce materials and energy’. 

Community site (GW4 Portal)