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Feature: Seeking Sustainable Solutions

Despite recent significant improvements in the use of recycled and secondary aggregates, a number of barriers are hindering uptake. However, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is working on several initiatives to push sustainability further up the agenda.

This month, the organisation announced a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-funded scoping study, which aims to solve some of the problems asso-ciated with achieving cleaner, more effective and
efficient deconstruction. The study will focus on the particular challenges faced by the deconstruction industry, including: buildings of complex design,
dissimilar mat-erials that are bonded together as
component parts of buildings, the current crude tools and equipment that contractors use and health and safety issues.

Project manager Katherine Adams says: “There is a real need to find more advanced technological solutions for segregating waste from source during the demolition process. The demolition sector is growing at an enormous rate. It needs to be able to comply with legislation, reduce the amount of material it sends to landfill and reduce disposal costs.

“This feasibility study will investigate the potential and viability of applying laser, robotic and microwave/RF technologies to the deconstruction of buildings and their component parts. These opportunities will be discussed with manufacturers to see where the biggest gains in resource use will been made.”

It is hoped that the study can lead to a full-scale, multi-million pound project, aiming to:

-design, develop and trial a series of prototype versatile mobile deconstruction units

-work with key manufacturers to produce products that will be easier to deconstruct at the end of their life

-maximise technology transfer from other industries such as automotive, packaging and manufacturing

-feed back the key findings from this project to other relevant sectors to encourage wider uptake and economies of scale for reprocessing plant and markets.

Another government-funded programme, this time by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will see BRE carrying out the biggest ever construction waste measurement project. The project will measure construction waste in a consistent and systematic
way from a range of construction, refurbishment and demolition projects across the UK. The data collected will enable the industry to understand the causes of waste and to predict waste arising from new build, demolition and refurbishment sectors.

BRE says that knowing the typical composition and quantity of waste being generated across these sectors will be a powerful tool for setting targets for reduction and planning for reprocessing and recovery facilities.

The BRE is also working on a joint programme with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
to work on three projects connected with the use of recycled and secondary aggregates (RSA). The aim is
to increase the number of applications for which RSA can be used.

Run by BRE, the WRAP projects will provide the construction and engineering industries with data and guidance that should enable increased use of RSA, leading to potential cost savings and environmental performance improvements.

According to BRE, the use of RSA in concrete is limi-ted by the perception that it has the potential to

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