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Research project to address waste in the construction industry

A new research initiative will look into ways to help the UK construction industry transition in line with the principles of a circular economy. 

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has given £4.35m to a group of universities to help them establish the Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre for Minerals-Based Construction Materials.

The research centre will address the current problems in the construction industry by looking at materials and analysing at what point materials become waste.

They will also work to solve the technical barriers to a circular economy by looking at how business models can encourage a move away from build-use-demolish, with solutions such as designing building modules that can be dismantled and reused and identifying new uses for materials that are currently regarded as worthless once used.

Read also: Biodiversity protection lies in engaging farmers and landowners

The hope is to move away from the current linear business model of extracting, processing and then discarding raw materials, to one where materials are designed to be continually re-used.

Professor Julia Stegemann, from University College London and Principal Investigator in the project, said: ‘We will also study how any changes to practices around minerals use would affect the environment and the economy, such as greenhouse gas emissions, costs to businesses or jobs.

‘And we’ll assess how changes in current business models and practices could support the use of less mineral-based construction materials, such as how they might be able to move more quickly to new technologies, or how they might use digital technologies to keep track of materials.’

Professor John Quinton of Lancaster University’s Environment Centre added: ‘Maintaining and restoring the soils affected by the construction process is vitally important. Soils affected by construction can play a key role in controlling flooding and pollution and it is vital that we develop better ways of restoring their ability to retain water and contaminants.’

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