May 30, 2024

Sheffield University to Probe UK Building Needs via Circular Economy

  • A new project led by researchers at the University of Sheffield will explore the extent to which the circular economy can be achieved by the UK’s building stock.
  • The BuildZero project has been awarded £6 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and will be carried out alongside the universities of Cardiff, Manchester, Bath, and Cambridge
  • The project will deliver national and regional insights into the best use of existing buildings and waste resources in order to meet the UK’s building needs using zero new material extraction, with zero emissions and zero waste.

A new project led by researchers at the University of Sheffield will explore the extent to which the circular economy could meet the UK’s building needs using zero new material extractions, zero emissions and zero waste.

BuildZero, a new £6 million project funded by EPSRC, will develop a detailed vision of more sustainable building practices, through a five year project in partnership with the University of Bath, The University of Manchester, Cardiff University, the University of Cambridge and industrial collaborators.

Buildings and infrastructure are responsible for over 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions, produce over 60 per cent of the UK’s waste, and consume approximately 50 per cent of all extracted materials globally. In order to decarbonise construction, significant changes are required.

The circular economy is a widely-recognised opportunity to reduce both resource consumption and carbon emissions. In a circular economy, materials are kept at the highest value possible, for example retrofitting buildings and repurposing buildings to extend their lifespans.

In the past, circular economy examples for the building sector have mostly focused on case studies of individual buildings, or recycling of individual materials, which misses the opportunity for making changes to the wider system. BuildZero aims to present a larger-scale, systems-level approach to making changes in the construction sector.

The BuildZero project will consider the options for developing methods for building without extracting new resources, eliminating waste and reducing carbon emissions from material extraction and production. The project will assess the extent to which the vision for a circular economy is achievable at regional and national level, and will provide a platform for demonstrating these solutions at scale.

The research will use methods from across several disciplines, including architecture, structural engineering, materials science and social sciences to understand the existing building stock, resource and waste flows, social attitudes and economics surrounding potential circular economy business models for the construction sector.

The research programme will culminate in a range of demonstrator projects, interactive tools, detailed strategies, and ultimately a series of pathways to achieve the BuildZero vision of a UK building stock with zero new raw material extraction, zero emissions and zero waste.

Dr Danielle Densley Tingley, Senior Lecturer in Architectural Engineering at the University of Sheffield, who is leading the project, said: “This funding is an exciting opportunity to explore if, and under what timeframes, a circular economy can be achieved for the UK’s building stock, whilst meeting essential societal needs. We will be working in close collaboration with industry partners to support changes in practice and help catalyse the shift to a widespread circular economy in the built environment.”

Dr Rick Lupton from the University of Bath, said: “We are really looking forward to working with BuildZero’s team of researchers and partners. Through this project, we are aiming to get a clearer view of how different approaches to a more circular economy fit together for the UK building stock as a whole, and therefore where the largest opportunities lie. At Bath, we will be mapping the availability of relevant resource flows in the UK, and applying Life Cycle Assessment methods to quantify environmental impacts of the circular economy strategies.”

Dr André Cabrera Serrenho from the University of Cambridge, added: “We are excited to be part of BuildZero, and to contribute to revealing novel opportunities to enhance our building stock with minimal emissions and material inputs. At Cambridge, we will improve our understanding of the physical features of our current building stock and develop tools to assist decision-making for various stakeholders.”

Dr Kersty Hobson from the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University, commented: “It is very important that the issues of social inclusion, impact and acceptability are fundamental to the goals and outcomes of BuildZero. I am looking forward to leading key work in these areas, in particular co-developing visions of sustainable building futures with a wide range of stakeholders.”

Professor Maria Sharmina from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at The University of Manchester, said: “We are excited to embark on the BuildZero programme aiming to transform the UK’s built environment from a linear to a circular system. At Manchester, we will build on the engineering, material and social foundations of BuildZero, to evaluate the economic feasibility of a circular economy for construction. We will work with companies across the supply chain to co-design new circular business models and to conduct techno-economic modelling.”

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.

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