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One brick at the time: changing the future of construction

In a world of finite resources, a circular economy is fundamental for tackling shortages in the supply of raw materials and to help reduce environmental impact. Imminent UK and EU legislation requires a significant reduction in waste to landfill; only 5% of waste from construction will be permitted and 70% of waste will require recycling by 2025. Landfill taxes are currently increasing year on year so companies are looking for ways to reduce waste bills. Furthermore, growing requirements for affordable low carbon building materials are key to support house-building targets. This has created a huge demand for new building materials that also must have sustainable credentials.

Resource constraints, competitiveness and environmental considerations are accelerating the shift towards a zero waste economy. From collection to recycling, the waste market is globally estimated at £330Bn per annum reflecting significant potential for job and wealth creation. The construction and demolition (C&D) sector is the largest contributor of waste globally and, in Europe alone, it is responsible for generating 821 million tonnes of waste every year. Given the global resource constraints, recovery and re-use of raw C&D waste materials (minerals, metals and organic materials) are increasingly emerging as factors of utmost importance in providing the best overall environmental, economic and societal outcomes.

The UK and Germany each require at least 1m new low carbon homes and Sweden requires 436,000 while Holland predicts a shortage of 200,000 homes by 2020. France targets building half million per annum for the coming years. For the European housing targets to be met, significant increase in brick production is required and new solutions/alternatives are imperative.

Dr Gabriela Medero from Heriot-Watt University developed a patent-protected quality construction brick with highly sustainable credentials (the highest recycled content, 90%, in the market and one tenth of the carbon footprint of traditional clay-fired bricks) at a reduced cost to the construction industry. The brick is un-fired, so radically reducing gas use during manufacture. Using recycled waste as main input material also reduces dependency on clay pits that are a finite resource of raw material. Using Medero’s brick, an average house built using the innovative brick will accommodate 40 tonnes of recycled waste.

Medero has secured funding from Zero Waste Scotland, Interface Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre to transform the concept idea into a viable exciting brick and now it is in the process of spinning-out the Kenoteq company to manufacture the brick in Scotland.

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