Circular Economy: De-Risking Reuse Standards, Warranties & Insurances

Constructing Excellence

On Tuesday 27th June, Constructing Excellence joined IOM3 for a webinar on Circular Economy with a focus on ‘De-Risking Reuse Standards, Warranties & Insurances’.

We were fortunate to be joined by Flavie Lowres, Chair of the IOM3 Construction Materials Group, Andrew Dunster, Principle Consultant at BRE, Alex Small from Tata Steel and Miles Watkins from Xeroc.

Flavie Lowres, Chair of the IOM3 Construction Materials group, introduced the session, explaining the need for transformation across construction in the way materials are used.

The built environment is rapidly changing, and buildings are regularly being demolished to make way for new structures. This leads to a large amount of waste material and requires consideration about how to make better use of the products after their 1st life.

Key Drivers for this Change:

  • Grovesnor targets
  • Construction playbook
  • CLC ConstructZero programme
  • GLA London Plan Guidance: Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessment

















Andrew Dunster, BRE: Construction Industry Now and in the Future, in Relation to Circular Economy


What is Circular Economy

Circular economy aims to take the traditional life cycle of products and introduce ‘reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycle’.


Circular Economy: Now

  • Architectural salvage/re-use
  • Reclaimed/remanufactured steel
  • Fly ash, GGBS and industrial
    by-products as raw materials in cement and concrete
  • Recycled aggregates


Looking Ahead in Circular Economy Use

Examples of R&D Projects:

  • Design/dematerialisation
    ACORN project
  • Circular Economy/ Remanufacturing
    Facade/cladding remanufacturing
  • Hybrid design, MMC and Construction Factory Trial
    Targeting commercial offices
    Offsite construction making use of steel and concrete
  • Steel and concrete bridge elements

How Can We De-Risk?

One of the most influential ways of beginning to de-risk reuse, is for big projects to demonstrate how it can work. This evidence will help to ensure standards are introduced to encompass reuse and support a 2nd life marketplace.

Another way of evidencing reuse is via testing labs such as the structures labs at BRE. This allows for testing, pushing boundaries of standards and demonstrating the plausibility or reuse.

Alex Small, Tata Steel: Digital Enablers and Product Data Flows

Importance of Manufacturers’ Data

Sectors other than construction, use integrated digital systems that follow the same rules to enable the sharing of data and allow users access.

Within construction, this has yet to become commonplace. For a start, not all manufacturers have digital systems and those that do, do not work to a standard set of rules which renders them unable to integrate and communicate with other systems. This becomes difficult to share information.

Manufacturers would benefit from clarity, support, direction and knowing what to prioritise.


Manufacturers’ ‘Best Practise’ Digital Journey

A best practise digital system would follow a journey of these 3 steps:

  1. Internally driven process
  2. Standards driven process
  3. Added value driven process

It’s crucial that each of these steps are in place within a digital system to enable other digital process such as tag and track or digital passports. These are only possible with if this foundation is in place.


Digital Tool and Platforms

Tag & Track

Tata Steel have been working with GS1, following their standards to work towards the implementation of a tag and track system.

In this process, products are made and tagged to allow it to be scanned for data (digital passport) and tracking. This enables tracking from production to placement within a building. At this point, in-use performance data & performance data can be collated which supports a 2nd life marketplace.


Product Data Flows from Design to Reuse

Tata Steel’s vision for the future

  • Manufacturers’ data feeds into manufacturers’ data hub.
  • Product information can be accessed by users, through the data hub when seeking products. This would include 2nd life products so users can seek reused materials for their products and access all necessary information.
  • Related standards also feed into the data hub which would be beneficial in assuring insurers of data accuracy.




























Miles Watkins: Concrete 2 Concrete


Currently, when demolitions take place, the materials are crushed and relegated to fill material. This means that high value materials become devalued to low value materials. This is a waste of the original materials’ potential 2nd life usage. It also doesn’t discourage or prevent quarrying.

The Xeroc approach is to carefully remove materials, at the end of a building’s life, and deconstruct the materials into their original components. This prevents waste and allows wider reuse.


Market Size and Demand

The need for recycled concrete has increased due to carbon emissions and circularity motivations.

86 million tonnes of concrete are produced per annum which would be worth around £6.6bn if recycled into new. This demonstrates the huge potential in concrete reuse.

Xeroc are interested in offering client- focused material servitisation, this is a different business model than buying demolition waste and selling concrete and will support the reuse of concrete materials.


How to De-Risk

Doing nothing is not an option- we all have a responsibility to try and so something


While insurers look at standards as a proxy for ‘good’, there are many examples that prove this is not the case. Standards generally lag behind innovation and can act as a barrier to moving forward,

In order to de-risk we need to ensure appropriate and robust testing regimes are in place to support new proprietary products.

BIM, the golden thread and product passports are the future of product reuse so it’s important that data is prioritised across industry.

Collaborative development is also key. We need to talk about, share & understand risk and agree how to handle problems before they arise. Xeroc are a good example of this as they are using collaborative approaches in delivering Innovate UK and National Highways pilot projects.

In Conclusion

Digital is key to changing the way we reuse materials within construction. By enabling better data usage, we can better track when and where products are used, identifying key information such as age, use, quality. This will better inform where these products can be reused and how and will also support us to establish what testing needs to be done to the product before it begins its 2nd life.

We also need to stop looking at materials as a problem at the end of buildings’ lives. These products actually represent a new opportunity- where will they go next and what will they be used for? It’s important to consider the 2nd life of materials in the same way we consider the 1st life.

We shouldn’t need to reuse materials after a couple of decades, buildings can remain in place for hundreds of years if we construct structures that are suitable for repurposing when changing function.

However, when buildings do need deconstructing, a standardised, platform approach could support reuse of materials. Buildings are designed in a way that can be taken down and rebuilt elsewhere.


Join us for the next Circular Economy session, a Hackathon hosted at BRE, Watford to explore ‘Solving Reuse Using a Real-Life Case Study’.