Fabrix leads the way with steel reuse | UK invests in urban mining

Among the projects Fabrix is considering using repurposed steel on is Roots In The Sky, a commercial redevelopment in Blackfriars, London

Fabrix has set a precedent in becoming the first developer in the UK to purchase second-hand steel for reuse, accelerating a move to a circular economy. 

Aiming to spur industry change and encourage open market purchases of used materials, Fabrix has purchased 139 tonnes of steel from a building that was being demolished in the City of London, and plans to reuse it on an upcoming refurbishment project. 

Data from the Steel Construction Institute (SCI), revealing that almost no steel is reused in the UK and the majority being smelted down and recycled, highlights the importance for action in the industry. A focus needs to be placed on the circular economy, considering resource efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

Calculations made by structural and civil engineering consultants AKT II suggest that “incorporating reused steel in a building could reduce its carbon impact by up to 80% compared with using steel with a high recycled content.”

“As an industry we need to be considering all possible innovations to reduce the environmental impact of our work,” said Clive Nichol, CEO of Fabrix. “What we have done is just the beginning – we expect more developers to follow in our footsteps and start reusing steel. Although reuse of some building materials is already common, this is one of the most significant attempts to apply the circular economy to structural elements of buildings.”

The British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) is drafting a Model Specification for the purchase of reused steel, which will provide the first industry guidance for how steel can be bought for reuse, according to Fabrix.

“The BCSA’s document will outline what steps should be taken so that a fabricator can purchase used steel to be incorporated into new building works,” explained Gerry O’Brien, Design Director of AKT II. “If this works then you could theoretically end up with a newly constructed building made from steel recovered from any number of ‘donor’ buildings.”

With investment from the government (for example, the NICER programme) into the construction industry and ‘urban mining’, the aim is to make the UK fully circulate all of its steel and aluminium. In the future, this will result in the reduction or elimination of raw material extraction and waste production. 

London’s first urban rooftop forest atop the Roots in the Sky mixed-use office building forms a 1.1 acre woodland area overlooking the city

Learn more about Roots in the Sky and the latest on how Fabrix plans to reuse steel.

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