LIMES.NET: Network for Low Impact Materials and innovative Engineering Solutions for the built environment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Architecture and Civil Engineering

Abstract

The increasing demand for low and zero carbon buildings in the UK has provided significant challenges for the energy intensive materials we currently rely on. At present somewhere between 20% and as much as 60% of the carbon footprint of new buildings is attributable to the materials used in construction; this is predicted to rise to over 95% by 2020. If the UK is to meet agreed 80% carbon reduction targets by 2050 it is clear that significant reductions in the embodied carbon of construction materials is required. What also seems clear is that current materials and systems are not capable of delivering these savings. The drive for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions, a decreasing reliance on non-renewal resources and for greater resource efficiency, requires step changes in attitude and approach as well as materials. Improvement in construction systems, capable of providing consistently enhanced levels of performance at a reasonable cost is required.

Modern developments in construction materials include: eco-cements and concretes (low carbon binders); various bio-based materials including engineered timber, hemp-lime and insulation products; straw based products; high strength bio-composites; unfired clay products utilising organic stabilisers; environmentally responsive cladding materials; self healing materials; smart materials and proactive monitoring; hygrothermal and phase change materials; coatings for infection control; ultra thin thermally efficient coatings (using nano fillers); ultra high performance concretes; greater use of wastes; and, fibre reinforcement of soils. However, very few of these innovations make the break through to widespread mainstream use and even fewer offer the necessary step change in carbon reductions required

A low carbon approach also requires novel solutions to address: whole life costing; end of life (disassembly and reuse); greater use of prefabrication; better life predictions and longer design life; lower waste; improved quality; planned renewal; and greater automation in the construction process. As well as performance, risk from uncertainty and potentially higher costs other important barriers to innovation include: lack of information/demo projects; changing site practices and opposition from commercial competitors offering potentially cheaper solutions..

A recent EPSRC Review has recognised the need for greater innovation in novel materials and novel uses of materials in the built environment. The vision for our network, LIMES.NET, is to create an international multi-disciplinary community of leading researchers, industrialists, policy makers and other stakeholders who share a common vision for the development and adoption of innovative low impact materials and solutions to deliver a more sustainable built environment in the 21st Century. The scope of LIMES.NET will include: adaptive and durable materials and solutions with significantly reduced embodied carbon and energy, based upon sustainable and appropriate use of resources; solutions for retrofitting applications to reduce performance carbon emissions of existing buildings and to minimise waste; climate change resilient and adaptive materials and technologies for retrofitting and new build applications to provide long term sustainable solutions. In recognition of their current adverse impacts and potential for future beneficial impacts, LIMES.NET will focus on bringing together experts to develop pathways to solutions using: renewable (timber and other plant based) construction materials; low-impact geo-based structural materials; cement and concrete based materials; innovative nano-materials and fibre reinforced composites. Through workshops and international visits the network will create a roadmap for multidisciplinary research and development pathways that will lead to high quality large research proposals, and an on-going virtual on-line centre of excellence.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
The work of LIMES.NET will directly support internationally agreed targets (Kyoto Protocol; EU) for the UK to reduce its industrially based carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. In addition to the existing community, direct beneficiaries of the network will include researchers in other fields (for example biosciences, economics, materials science, agronomy, architecture, building physics) and stakeholders (including consultants, contractors, clients, policy makers) across the UK construction sector (material and product manufacturers; designers; contractors; policy makers; built infrastructure owners; professional bodies) as well as society in general.

How will they benefit from this research?
Knowledge: New knowledge created through the network, and the follow on research work stimulated by the network, will ensure that together the UK research and construction sector will have the capacity to become the world leaders, by raising profile of UK research overseas and providing opportunities to collaboratively generate the knowledge to be at the forefront of low impact construction materials, product and infrastructure delivery. Without this fundamental research investment, the UK risks neglecting intellectually one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Members of the network include national and globally leading practitioners, policy makers as well as researchers.

Society: We will provide construction sector capacity to meet demands for carbon reduction set by government policy and international agreements. Stakeholders will gain: an increased capacity to reduce environmental impact of new construction materials and systems; improved performance of existing infrastructure through low impact retrofitting technologies; better understanding of design and implementation of low carbon technologies for the built environment. The novel research emanating from this network is expected to change future government policy in the implementation of low carbon materials. Through international links the network will provide support development activities through knowledge provision and linkages between clients and public and private service providers. Public sector will be better placed to support delivery of lower carbon retrofitted and new infrastructure. Society will benefit from improved infrastructure performance (quality of life; healthier buildings) and measures that seek to mitigate against climate change.

Economy: The network will create a forum for new collaborations between the research community and construction sector, stimulating opportunities for novel collaborative research that will generate new materials, products, systems and services. This new intellectual property will provide opportunities for wealth creation through investment in new products and services by existing and new enterprises. The network will provide a hub for a new community of high tech knowledge driven construction product and service providers. The research will help inform product manufacturers of how their materials perform in new, fundamental detail, so that product improvements and new materials can be made. This can feed directly into the design process enabling more efficient and economic use of materials in both new construction and retrofit.

People: Our vision is to create an international multi-disciplinary community of leading researchers, industrialists, policy makers and other stakeholders who share a common vision for the development and adoption of innovative low impact materials and solutions to deliver a more sustainable built environment in the 21st Century. The participants in this network and on follow-up research projects will also feel empowered to proceed with their ideas through having a network of like-minded people with whom to associate.

Organisations

Publications

10 25 50
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Heath A (2013) The potential for using geopolymer concrete in the UK in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Construction Materials

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Lawrence M (2013) Hygrothermal performance of bio-based insulation materials in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Construction Materials

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Trujillo D (2013) Lightly modified bamboo for structural applications in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Construction Materials

 
Description The research activities of LimesNet, and its sister network FiF (Future Infrastructure Forum), inspired the EPSRC to hold a call in the fields of Ground and Structural Engineering. LimesNet submitted over 14 proposals to this call, and this, combined with other bids submitted to the EU and other industrial funders, could potentially be worth £46,000,000.
Exploitation Route Outcomes from LimesNet have fed into numerous EPSRC (Materials 4 Life; DuraCOMP; HIVE) and EU funded projects (ECO-SEE; HEMPSEC).
Sectors Construction

 
Description From a projected membership of 100, the network closed with 257 members in July 2012, of which 40% where from industry. At 100 members, LimesNet was felt to be significantly larger than other similar network, but at almost 250 this demonstrates the enthusiastic support for this network and its outcomes from all stakeholder groups. LimesNet held a presence at several key stakeholder events, such as EcoBuild in March 2012; as well as hosting its own research activities, such as the visit to the Balehaus, University of Bath. Beyond this, the LimesNet team and individual members strove to engage with policy makers and trade organisations alike, with visits to Brussels to meet with members of the European Commission, and similarly in the UK. This was to support and drive the change towards a more sustainable, low-carbon built environment with key funding and policy bodies. One of the key successes of LimesNet was its International Mission Fund. Based around the LimesNet's four themes, members were invited to submit bids for funding to travel internationally with a group of colleagues to forge new links and investigate research development overseas. There were 14 successful applications, involving over 60 academics and self-funded industrial partners, visiting over 60 organisations in 14 different countries. Funding for these missions was awarded around £107,000 These Missions then formed the focus of four 2-day thematic workshops held in Bath over the Spring in 2012. 240 members and guest speakers attended, many of whom then came to the LimesNet Conference held over 3 days in July2012. The Conference attracted over 114 members and internationally invited guest speakers. All events were a varied mixture of guest speakers from industry and academia, informal networking and workshops. The development of Open Space Technology as a novel workshop methodology led to the development of many research proposals, as well as many new working partnerships. This was noted as another key success and outcome for the network. The research activities of LimesNet, and its sister network FiF (Future Infrastructure Forum), inspired the EPSRC to hold a call in the fields of Ground and Structural Engineering. LimesNet submitted over 14 proposals to this call, and this, combined with other bids submitted to the EU and other industrial funders, could potentially be worth £46,000,000.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Construction
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description EPSRC Equipment Grant
Amount £4,046,109 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L005689/1 and EP/K040391/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2013 
End 08/2023
 
Description EeB.NMP.2013-2 - Safe, energy-efficient and affordable new eco-innovative materials for building envelopes and/or partitions to provide a healthier indoor environment
Amount € 6,550,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 609234 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2013 
End 08/2017
 
Description BRE 
Organisation Building Research Establishment
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Hapold Consulting Ltd 
Organisation BuroHappold Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Ibstock brick ltd 
Organisation Ibstock Brick Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Lhoist UK 
Organisation Lhoist UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Lime Technology Ltd 
Organisation Lime Technology Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2006
 
Description Modern Built Env KTN 
Organisation Innovate UK
Department MBE KTN Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Partnerhsip on innovative research network
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in construction industry; access to membership network
Impact None
Start Year 2011
 
Description White Design 
Organisation White Design Associates
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaborative working on TSB, EASME and FP7 projects
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative working on TSB, EASME and FP7 projects
Impact ModCell panel: Patent No. GB2457891B
Start Year 2006
 
Description Industry workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussions set an agenda for future research in construction materials

Future research collaboration established with key industry stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012