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£1m funding for Bradford, an Ellen MacArthur Foundation Pioneer University


The University of Bradford has been awarded £1 million to support a project aimed at developing the circular economy in the UK.

The funding, awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will help the University of Bradford School of Management, led by Professor Peter Hopkinson with Professor Dennis Lam, School of Engineering, and in collaboration with the University of Manchester’s Professor Yong Wang, to take a close look at the construction industry and how high value materials can be reused in new developments.

With 50,000 buildings demolished in the UK each year, the REBUILD project will bring key players from the construction, logistics and manufacturing sectors, together with local authorities, with the aim of reducing costs in new builds; reusing high value materials; creating new jobs in innovative technologies of deconstruction, repair and manufacturing; and reducing environmental impact.

Professor Hopkinson said: “This ambitious project will demonstrate how the re-design of a construction and built environment value network, based on the principles of the circular economy, works at a regional scale to deliver far greater benefit than the current linear model and can be translated into other regions, and the wider learning applied to other key industry sectors. We are delighted to have the support of four major Northern Local authorities (Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and North Yorkshire) to provide a test bed and the support of many key industrial partners across the value chain.”

Professor Wang added: “The UK has a huge legacy of buildings, including cement mortar-based masonry, reinforced concrete, and steel/concrete composite structures, which account for the vast majority of UK building construction tonnage and cost. Currently, these buildings are demolished at the end of their service life and their materials are recycled, but this is a difficult process.

This project will investigate methods of extracting high value from such end of service life buildings by upgrading low-value recycling to high-value reuse of building components.

This project will give us an opportunity to explore different techniques of cost-effectively reclaiming and re-manufacturing building products from hard to deconstruct buildings.”

As a Partner of the REBUILD scheme, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will form part of a steering group, with Honorary Teaching Fellow Bradford School of Management, Ken Webster, sitting on the advisory committee. The Foundation team will also provide general advice and guidance on the circular economy framework and aid the dissemination of outcomes from REBUILD across its network.

Jo Miller, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Higher Education Programme Lead, said: “REBUILD is both innovative and forward thinking and promises to make a significant contribution to our insight and understanding of the building and construction sector through the lens of the circular economy - a coherent framework for systems level re-design which offers an opportunity to harness innovation to enable a positive, restorative economy.”

Bradford is a Pioneer University, one of an international network of higher education institutions developing truly pioneering and innovative circular economy-orientated research or teaching programmes, supported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.