16 Oct 2019

Circular construction: Industry group calls for building materials exchange

Circular construction: Industry group calls for building materials exchange

A national exchange for surplus building materials, products, and components could help slash waste, costs, and environmental impacts, according to a group of infrastructure owners and operators.

The proposal from the Major Infrastructure - Resource Optimisation Group (MI-ROG), which is led by consultancy AECOM, argues the potential environmental gains enabled by trading surplus construction materials is huge, given the construction sector is responsible for 60 per cent of total UK waste.

The Environment Agency, Gatwick and Heathrow airports, Highways England, National Grid, Network Rail and Transport for London are all among the group's members.

Reusing materials associated with infrastructure construction would extend their lifespan, maintain their value and reduce embodied carbon and water impacts, MI-ROG said in'a new white paper.

The group acknowledges that earlier attempts to introduce exchanges for surplus materials have failed to scale up.

However, it maintains that increased digitisation, including the ability to track data in real time, would make such a scheme much easier to implement than was previously the case, since users would be able to access substantiated information about products and materials as they become available.

However, the paper acknowledges that for the exchange to be successful, there would need to be a sizeable community of users, and a significant behavioural shift to encourage new ways of working.

The idea has been endorsed by campaign group the UK Green Building Council and membership organisation the Major Projects Association.

Philip Charles, principal sustainability consultant at AECOM, said that reuse projects have been notoriously difficult to implement in the construction sector. But he argued a new exchange platform could help overcome many of the challenges faced by developers.'

"With any re-use usually occurring only within single projects, broadening access to a common pool of resources across the entire UK construction industry would vastly increase the potential for keeping vital resources in the market place at high value," he said.

"Infrastructure clients and the supply chain must now work together to come up with a consistent, ongoing solution that will bring maximum benefits over the long term."

MI-ROG will now discuss the idea with wider industry, innovation centres, and government bodies to develop a business case for a new exchange.

Barriers that would need to be overcome include where to store surplus materials, a clear approach to procurement and liability, and challenges around geography, timing, warranties and ensuring compliance with waste regulations, the group said.

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Source: Business Green


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