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New project aims to accelerate material re-use in construction

A research project ‘Accelerating Material Re-Use in Construction’ led by Dr Ana Rute Costa, from the University’s School of Architecture, has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Dr Costa will work with a project partner, London-based Orms Architects.

The ideal process to accelerate material re-use in construction identifies ‘material passports’ as one of the key focus areas for this project, with an emphasis on applying the approach to existing buildings.

Says Dr Costa: “Since 80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have been already built, it is imperative that we make the most of the materials already in existence. This is a real-life challenge.”

She explains that re-use of construction materials is the most resource efficient solution for a circular economy, ensuring material value is preserved for as long as possible.

The use of re-used materials in construction has the potential of reducing the embodied carbon of construction and can reduce the demand for virgin materials as well as reducing construction waste.

Embodied carbon in the construction phase of a building’s life typically equates to 50%/70% of its total life cycle emissions.

The project’s focus on embodied carbon is seen as a fundamental step towards meeting the Net Zero targets defined by the UK government.

“I am excited to be part of the Accelerating Material Re-Use Group and work with different stakeholders across construction industry, from developers to users, from salvage companies to designers,” says Dr Costa.

“This will be an excellent opportunity to promote knowledge exchange between academia and architectural practice and update the Lancaster School of Architecture curriculum with the latest research findings and guiding principles.”

Associate at Orms Architects Rachel Hoolahan say: “We are delighted to have Dr Costa to join us to support our ongoing research into the application of material passports for existing buildings.

“We believe that this is critical to unlocking the reuse of materials and pursuing a more circular approach to development.”

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