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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P008917/2
Title: REBUILD - REgenerative BUILDings and products for a circular economy
Principal Investigator: Hopkinson, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Lam, Professor D Wang, Professor Y Barber, Professor K
Li, Professor L Bartolo, Professor P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arup Group Ltd BAM Construct UK (Royal BAM Group) BRE Trust (Building Res Excellence)
British Constructional Steelwork Assoc City of Bradford Met District Council Eco-Res Limited
Ellen Macarthur Foundation Knowledge Transfer Network Limited Leeds City Council
Leeds College of Building Manchester City Council NFDC (Nat Fed Demolition Contractors)
North Yorkshire County Council The Alliance for Sustainable Bld Product
Department: Business and Management
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 25 October 2017 Ends: 31 July 2021 Value (£): 921,629
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Civil Engineering Materials Construction Ops & Management
Waste Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Construction
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
20 Jul 2016 Circular Economy Full Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In a circular economy value is created by keeping products and materials 'in flow' through effective recirculation and re-use to optimise their highest economic potential and minimise the use of virgin materials and external environmental costs. New construction and existing building stocks present the highest potential for circular economy innovation, value retention and creation opportunities, estimated to be worth approximately Euro 450 - 600M p.a. Innovation in the reclamation of currently hard to re-use building products - concrete, steel, brick, from end of service life (EOSL) buildings and their remanufacture into new modular products for new builds which would then be designed for future deconstruction, is therefore a major economic opportunity.

REBUILD proposes that materials are directly reused and remanufactured into new builds with minimal re-processing. The project proposes a new circular economy system to address key barriers in the current linear approaches to demolition and new building construction, and build capabilities and tools to create significant new value by the early adoption of novel technologies, high value remanufacture, new system arrangements and the scaling up good practices. The magnitude of the opportunity is considerable. Existing buildings were not designed for adaptation, dis-assembly, or high value reuse. Therefore, the current option is to demolish them when they reach EOSL. In the UK approximately 50,000 buildings are demolished each year generating 45Mt of wastes, the majority of this is concrete and masonry, brick and steel. Of this 45Mt, only a small percentage is reclaimed, mostly for heritage products or easily demountable structures such as steel sections from portal frames. EOSL buildings are treated as costs to be minimised with speed of clearance commercially critical and a subsequent major loss of embedded carbon, energy, materials and potential value.

For circularity to become mainstream in the building construction industry, it is imperative that barriers to reuse hard to deconstruct buildings, including using cement mortar based masonry, reinforced concrete, steel-concrete composite structures, which account for the vast majority of UK construction tonnage and cost, must be removed.

REBUILD starts the process of converting all current building at the end of their first life and future buildings into material and product banks allowing the retention of high value materials and products for future repeat reuse. The cost of transport and storage means that repair, remanufacture and reuse of products to be commercially successful will need to be regional/local scale. To create demand acceptance for re-used products REBUILD testing processes are designed to demonstrate industry standards of quality assurance of technical performance.

Creating demand requires a system re-design and co-ordination to integrate all the activities in the value chain including construction and manufacture, demolition and other key activities (financing, public procurement, planning), in new ways to collaborate to unlock and share value from product re-use. This integration is likely to be optimal at city scale within a circular economy regional hub. This system design will be created and modelled with our industrial stakeholders. The project will quantify, measure and evaluate the magnitude of value creation and product re-use for different system configurations and scenarios against a Business as Usual (BAU) reference case. Continual interactions with the industrial stakeholder group, and through their networks the wider construction industry, will make sure that the direction of our project stays close to industrial needs and the outcomes of our research are communicated to the industry in the most effective way.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk