Procurement and Circular Economy
Panel 1: Structure, Skin and Services
The first panel, themed around the shearing layers of Structure, Skin and Services covered some interesting case studies including the Entopia Building ‘this is not an ordinary project but it needs to be’ from Peter Kelly at ISG. This projectutilised the original structure, a number of material reuse elements included the steel for the PV canopy, raised access flooring, carpet tiles and a beautiful oak reception desk that was remodelled. Matt Morris at Hawkins Brown talked about several projects including TEDI, built from materials – including steel and timber – left over from the deconstruction of a nearby printworks, at the end of its life the building can be reused on site, relocated in its entirety, or stripped and recycled. Matt also spoke of Hawkins Brown wider industry engagement,particularly on the data associated for circularity and reuse. Lastly, Sarah Trahair-Williams at FORE Partnership talked about Tower Bridge Court (TBC). Sarah said they took 40 tonnes of 1930s steel from House of Fraser, which netted 16 tonnes that could be used in their new TBC building. All projects cited significant carbon savings through the reuse of materials and products, and the panel agreed on the need to move away from highly bespoke buildings and to have more simple designs to facilitate reuse.
Roy Fishwick, Cleveland Steel and Tubes raised a point about particular items that are specified at an early stage of a project but may not be available at point of construction, and whether being too specific too early may actually stymie reuse. Sarah responded by saying that the industry needs to move away from bespoke buildings, to more simple designs, standard components and have designs that flex. She believes it is possible to have an ethos of ‘this is the material that’s available, how can design fit around it’. At the moment she conceded it is too often a case of the ‘stars aligning’ between supply and demand as the material reuse market is currently not working at scale.
The importance of getting the local Planning Department on board was raised, as more flexibility by planners regarding the implications of reuse is needed: For example , as Sarah commented, the reuse of certain building components may affect floor-to-ceiling heights, could planning be more flexible around storey heights to allow for this? Can the planning process be more flexible in order to respond to what reuse materials are available without it being flouted by those trying to unscrupulously manipulate the system?
Being sustainable is also about the businesses involved still trading at the end of the project so need to ensure economic feasibility as well as the environmental and societal requirements –balancing the triple bottom line ,. Reuse can come out more cost effective, particularly with steel as a higher value material (LINK TO DISRUPT). This is not the case with all products. Storage and logistics is a common theme as one of the barriers to reuse.
Other discussion points included ‘do we need to tell people things are reused’ – in some instances reuse should just look like business as usual, for others obvious reuse and the story-telling behind it is necessary to support a shift in thinking and perception.
In answer to the question ‘what can we do to make products easier to be reused’, the panel all said it would be great to work more closely with manufacturers to support this, and equally that manufacturers need to talk to each other in more detail about how their products work together within the building eg ceilings and lighting. It will be interesting to see how any Extended Producer Responsibility related policies will drive/ support the way manufacturers design.
Lastly, the panel were asked to be the Reuse ‘Fairy’ and to make one wish – the answers were collaboration, data, and be happy with imperfection.
Howard Button, IDE/ NFDC gave delegates a quick summary of some of the materials demolition contractors love to hate, not least composite building elements such as pre-insulated plasterboard favoured by Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).
On the one hand they bring benefits (time, quality, energy savings), but include disadvantages such as being almost impossible to reuse and often difficult to recycle as cannot separate the materials. Other materials included asbestos (still very much present in older buildings) and polystyrene used in various ways. Hazardous wood waste requirements are causing issues – there are only two incinerators in the UK that can be used.
Warranties and Insurance
Penny Gowler from Elliot Wood took the audience through Warranties and Insurance, sharing some research that EW had been involved with regarding barriers to Reuse. The research put Warranties & Certification towards the top of the list in terms of importance and middle of the pack regarding how challenging it is to remove it as a barrier. Take back schemes are one way of getting products rewarrantied – for example RMF and Whitecroft Lighting. Penny gave a great case study example of City Place House and how the steel had been taken from that building and diverted for reuse directly in two other projects,with the remainder going to EMR for reuse and a small proportion going for scrap. In this example the testing & certification protocol involved GPE retaining ownership of the steel andEMR testing it using the certification and warranty process set out in P427 (P440 steel 1932 to 1970). Noting that there is a difference between what testing is required for reuse in situ and offsite. Penny was also heavily involved in the IStructE Circular economy and reuse: guidance for designers, a hefty piece of work and a mine of information which is well worth a read.
Panel 2: Space and Stuff
The final session of the day was Panel 2, themed around the Space and Stuff shearing layers, where there are many opportunities for reuse. It was also mentioned by Penny in the previous slot that Services should be investigated more for reuse potential – with little currently reused. . Panellists for this session were Justin Robinson who talked about the Reyooz digital platform and the reuse related services they offer; Greg Lavery, on Rype’s furniture remanufacturing offer and how they deliver social value in addition to environmental benefits; Nigel Harvey discussed the Recolight Reuse Hub for lighting, and how they are shifting their members and customers from recycling to reuse and remanufacture; Paul Woolvine, outlined IOBAC’s magnetic tabs systems for enabling carpet tile reuse and preventing damage to floor surfaces (where adhesive is used instead of systems such as IOBAC 50p of glue per m2 can create approx. £65 per m2 of carpet tile and flooring related costs); and Rebecca Marsh on RMF raised access flooring, where their Total Take Back scheme will take damaged panels and pedestals for recycling as well as ones in good condition for their industry renowned Eco Range of re-warrantied reused panels and pedestals. All organisations offer aspects of carbon reporting to demonstrate the benefits of reuse in terms of carbon savings.
A common theme across all these companies was their enthusiasm to shift the industry to reuse through supporting customers and their value chains to get products from where they are no longer needed to where they can be reused. A particular area of concern is Category A and B fit out and the waste created by Cat A being ripped out hardly used due to a new tenant wanting something different to what has been initially installed, either into a new building or due to refurbishment/ redevelopment. FIS are working on this issue.
A number of Slido questions were asked during the event, some of the findings are:
- a promising 80% of the respondents said their company is using circular strategies (eg: reuse) as part of their embodied carbon reduction plan
82% had reused a variety of materials or products in their projects, with steel coming at the top of those materials reused
- a resounding 100% are happy to look at using reused products in a future commercial project (if they could be sourced)
- 45% have carried out a pre-demolition or pre-fitout audit and 90% said training and accreditation on pre-demolition audits would be beneficial
About the Reuse Now Campaign
- The aim of the Reuse Now campaign is to increase the reuse of construction products and materials through:
- Practical focus by exploring supply chain barriers and develop solutions
- Open dialogue and sharing of knowledge between reuse material donors/recipients and wider ecosystem to enable greater uptake
- Learn from what others have done to progress quickly (not everyone doing their own research)
You can find out more about the campaign here https://asbp.org.uk/workstream/reuse-now.
Support the campaign
Benefits of being involved with the Reuse Now campaign include:
- knowledge exchange and learning
- thought leadership opportunities and leading by example
- being associated with sector best practice
- and being able to input into and have access to research and practical outputs to support your organisation – and the industry – to achieve its Circular Economy and Net Zero Carbon targets.
If you are interested in sponsoring, please contact Debbie Ward at email@example.com.
Share your experiences
Much research has been done into the barriers and enablers of a circular economy. We now want to dig down into the details of these to drive practical action. We have developed this survey to better understand current priorities and target the areas most needed. Responses will set the focus for the campaign and support driving the transition to a more circular, resource efficient built environment. https://forms.office.com/r/jQYVL2fBes