Circular Economy Centre for Mineral-based Construction Materials

Icec mcm

The National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research Centre for Mineral-based Construction Materials aims to develop the scientific and socio-economic understanding and technological basis for design and implementation of systems, processes and policy that will support the transition to a sustainable Circular Economy, particularly for built environment infrastructure, using case studies for mineral-based construction materials (MCM). NICER-CMCM research will seek to enable transformative change to circular processes and practices over the whole MCM value chain, with creation of economic value from reduced use of energy and virgin raw materials, and progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including reduction of waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protection of natural capital.

These aims will be achieved through advanced training of 15 postdoctoral researchers (PDRs) and more than 20 doctoral students. The PDRs will work on interlinked, seminal projects developed in collaboration with industrial stakeholders to yield actionable solutions for implementation in the initial 4y period of the Centre, in relation to 3 key interconnected Challenges:

  1. Dynamic Spatial Modelling of MCM Stocks, Flows & Impacts
  2. Technological Innovation for MCM Demand Reduction, Circularity & Impact Reduction
  3. Systemic Enablers for Circularity of MCM

The objective of Challenge 1 is to characterise and model the flows and stocks of MCM over their whole life cycles, and the resulting environmental, social and economic impacts.The modelling will be used: a) to prioritise flows and processes for intervention, by identifying sources of supply and demand, failures of linear approaches, and barriers and opportunities for circularity, and b) for scenario analysis, to examine the potential effects, benefits and trade-offs associated with material substitutions and changes in policy and technology (interactively with Challenges 2 and 3) on system circularity and impacts.

The objective of Challenge 2 is to develop the technical understanding for each life cycle stage of MCM and new technologies to reduce their demand, enable their circularity, and create economic value while improving their environmental and social impacts. Identified opportunities for transformative technological changes will feed back to the scenario modelling in Challenge 1 and MCM circular economy business model in Challenge 3.

The objective of Challenge 3 is to create a framework for implementing eco-design for MCMs and proposing changes to the practices of businesses throughout the whole value chain and system, including investors, to remove barriers and create market support for adoption of circular materials and technologies, as well as changes in policy and regulation that will support these new business practices.

The Independent Advisory Board will help shape the direction of the Centre and support uptake of 16 Cross-Cutting Themes that are fundamental for a successful transition to a sustainable Circular Economy, across all the Challenges and projects: Circular Economy Principles, Sustainable Development Goals, Resilience, Metrics, Standards, Education, Behaviour Change, Digital Innovation, Virgin Materials Demand, Industrial Symbiosis, GHG Emissions / Energy, Natural Capital, Social Impacts, Business Impacts, Policy Impacts and Other Impacts (eg air pollution, water use, unintended consequences, trade-offs with other systems).