A consortium is developing technology that could reduce costs and increase the efficiency of locating construction materials that are available for reuse.
The LINK Materials Exchange project is exploring the use of AI and big data to develop an app that will recognise products in-situ, and make them available for reuse or resale via a digital platform.
High cost and lack of information on availability are some of the biggest challenges to the growth in the reuse of construction materials, according to the consortium. It believes this technology could revolutionise the construction waste sector, enabling exponential growth in the use of salvaged materials.
The consortium includes Nazir Associates, Hertfordshire University, Reusefully and The Finishes and Interior Sector (FIS).
Dr Mohammad Nazir OBE, MD of Nazir Associates and head of the LINK consortium, said: “Circularity in construction materials is currently at a low level, with high input costs and issues with availability of products to match the requirements from a building design point of view. The LINK consortium is consulting with key movers and shakers within the construction and interior finishes sector who feel they could re-engineer designs, allowing an increase in the use of reclaimed materials, providing initial entry barriers are reduced or removed altogether.”
Professor Hafiz Alaka, head of big data and AI at Hertfordshire University, added: “Our university specialises in big data, AI and object recognition technology within the construction industry. We are privileged to be part of this endeavour to develop the technology to help create market spaces for reused building materials and substantially to increase circularity in this space and help reduce carbon.”
Deconstruction and reuse
Reusefully is a partnership that provides circular economy advice to the built environment. Its director, Simon Guy, explained: “The combination of building and material banks databases and building digitisation could make it much easier to deconstruct buildings and encourage reuse by connecting up all the key players in market spaces.
“A small number of UK and Europe-wide projects have shown how reuse can be done in an environmentally friendly way. We are seeking to expand this to a much larger number of potential users.”
Iain Mcilwee, CEO of FIS, said: “There is growing demand from our members to access reused finishes and interior materials, provided they are at the right price, quality and speed of availability. The opportunity is huge with a fit-out typically every five to seven years, but the speed of the process and lack of good information about existing assets and available materials makes it challenging.
“We are excited to be working with colleagues through the LINK consortium, which could deliver an innovative and practical solution to the reuse conundrum.”
The LINK project is part-funded by Innovate UK under the UK Smart Grants programme to support SMEs and their partners to develop disruptive innovations with significant potential for rapid, economic return to the UK.
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