Nicolas Dutreix : The founding principle for this project is based on two particular raw and waste material streams that have potential to be utilised in the construction sector, and are apparent in the name chosen for the project: Sustainable Bio & Waste Resources for Construction.
The construction sector mobilises enormous amounts of raw materials and therefore widely contributes to depleting natural resources. The sector also produces 78% of French waste. According to ADEME (The French Environment and Energy Management Agency), 345,000,000 tons of waste was produced in 2012, with 247,000,000 tons originating from construction. In the same year, the United Kingdom produced 193,000,000 tons of waste, of which 109,000,000 tons came from the construction sector. On both sides of the Channel, construction waste represents an abundant source of materials that could be better valued by developing into a circular economy concept.
We based our approach on a second observation: sustainable buildings often follow one of two philosophies, usually mutually exclusive. Some construction companies aim to create buildings from 100% bio-based materials, whilst others would rather use 100% recycled materials. We want to reconciliate these two philosophies by combining both bio-based and recycled materials. Climate change and finite natural resources command that we explore every possible solution. Synergies already exist, for instance with cellulose wadding produced out of paper or cardboard waste (themselves produced out of silvicultural resources).
N.D.: Sustainable buildings and cities have been one of our pillars of development for the past 10 years. We have also conducted a number of studies on the circular economy. The SB&WRC project matches our core know-how and echoes our vision: rather than piling up bio-based or recycled solutions, we should develop synergies between these materials and propose more innovative products.
N.D.: France and the United Kingdom have followed two very different trajectories when it comes to the development of these construction materials. In France, public authorities largely favour the development of bio-based materials and a true expertise has emerged. In comparison, the United Kingdom has established policies by which waste can be converted into products much more easily. The complementarity of the French and the English approaches, reinforced by cross-border cooperation within the Interreg VA France (Channel) England program, represents a great opportunity to develop synergies between these two material sources and nurture relationships between experts working on these issues on both sides of the Channel.
The SB&WRC project appears to have a strong base in Normandy, Why?
For years, several organisations located in Normandy have led groundbreaking research on bio-based materials. The DREAL (Regional Directorate for Environment, Planning and Housing) Normandie incited exchanges and partnerships between Veolia, ESITC Caen, UniLaSalle and Nomadéis. These partnerships find their natural extension in the Interreg France (Channel) England program and enable us to quickly move to the prototype stage within the SB&WRC project.
What are the assets of the English partners?
Our English partners have led very advanced research projects in to the development of recycling and reuse of materials. In 2014, the University of Brighton constructed the first permanent building which built 90% out of recycled and reused materials. The ASBP (Alliance for Sustainable Building Products) promotes and shares knowledge about various types of sustainable construction materials towards industry and academia in the UK, such as recycled paper and cardboard-based construction blocks. The University of Bath has conducted many research projects on the use of bio-based materials in buildings and has a state-of-the-art life-size testing facility in Wroughton. As an example, the University of Bath recently delivered research results on the use of wheat straw and hemp-lime mixes.
N.D.: For this project to succeed, we need experts and researchers to develop prototypes, but also communication specialists to disseminate these innovations. The communication side of the project will be coordinated by Construction21 in France and ASBP in England.
The complementarity of our partners is the keystone of the SB&WRC project. Cross-border cooperation allows us to mobilise a wide combination of expertise and equipment necessary to reach our ambitious goals. For instance, University of Bath’s environmental chambers and its microbiologic and eco-physiologic testing tools; the hall of materials in the ESITC Caen and its microstructure analysis tools; ESITPA is at the forefront of research in to biodegradibility; whilst Veolia specialises in waste collection and management and will provide technical expertise in waste recovery.
N.D. : Technical partners of the SB&WRC project will work in binational pairs on prototypes of materials combining bio-based and recycled resources. This process will facilitate the transfer of knowledge and know-how. To guarantee the sustainability of our three prototypes, we need to utilize under-used raw and waste material streams. For example, recycled glass is already used in vast amounts by other sectors. It would be very counter-productive to divert part of these volumes and confine them for decades within the walls of a building. Therefore, prototype 3 will be developed from straw, an abundant and scarcely used agricultural co-product. Prototype 1 will illustrate the 100% bio-based approach, whilst Prototype 2 will combine recycled textile materials and vegetal fibers to showcase a hybrid approach.
N.D. : This project is neither intended to directly accompany local channels, nor to commercialise prototypes born from our work. However, we hope that our approach will inspire other companies and industrials from the bio-based and the circular economy sectors. Every year, more and more circular economy construction materials are launched on the market. They represent around 10% of the insulation market in France. Our goal is to build a momentum that will result in large scale production.
On both sides of the Channel, there is a true potential in creating new jobs by developing recycled and bio-based construction material industries. Sizable companies – between 3,000 and 4,000 employees - are already positioned on this segment, for instance textile recycling, which is one channel our work will highlight.
A growing part of the population, in France and in the United Kingdom, as well as in the rest of Europe, is more concerned with indoor air quality and the environmental impact of their homes. The materials we are developing must meet expectations for both their sustainability credentials and wider health benefits.
To construction companies, end users and specifiers, we want to prove that these materials can be an alternative. We wish to incite these actors to appropriate these solutions and believe that’s where the communication mission to be accomplished by Nomadéis, Construction21 and ASBP will be crucial!
Last updated on the 14-12-2017 by Rémi Guidoum