Building circular thinking into urban regeneration
The Merton Regeneration Project is a £1 billion investment by Clarion Housing Group to provide nearly 3000 new homes for the neighbourhoods of Eastfields and Ravensbury in Mitcham and High Path in Wimbledon, along with 9,000sqm of retail, leisure, office, work and community space.
It is not just the scale of this urban regeneration project that is ambitious. Clarion, the UK’s largest Housing Association, promises to set new standards in project management, build quality and, as a result, benefit to the community, through the application of circular economy principles. The Association set up a collaborative partnership with LOOP, the start-up that works with construction projects to optimise use of their material assets, to help them identify the opportunities, challenges and practicalities of embedding a circular approach. There were also two Circular Economy workshops, run by London Waste and Recycling Board for the Clarion team.
Creating long-term value
Paul Quinn is Director of Merton Regeneration, Clarion Housing Group, “We want to push the envelope of what it is possible to achieve in an urban regeneration project. It is a long-term investment for us and we want to make sure we can get as much economic and social value for our residents as possible. Circular thinking helps us to do that.”
Over the course of the 12-year project, 1,260 homes will be demolished and replaced with a total of 2,900 new homes, retail and employment spaces, parks and green spaces. All of Clarion’s existing residents will be re-housed in homes of an appropriate size, dealing with existing overcrowding, and the project will be managed so that they will all be able to move straight from their existing home to the new one. There will also be new stock available to rent and to buy, boosting Merton’s supply of high-quality new housing.
Clarion aims to have circular principles written into every procurement contract for the Merton Project. This is new territory for many in the construction industry so collaboration and shared learning is crucial to making it happen. “We have an opportunity in this project to challenge traditional approaches and explore new ways of working with our supply chain to achieve better outcomes,” says Paul.
Working together in the early stages of the project, Clarion and LOOP were able to explore options and benefits of a circular approach. Using the demolition of the Old Lamp Works, Works, a former factory on the High Path estate as a pilot, they carried out a pre-demolition audit to gather data about the existing assets and considered how to optimise the logistics of removal, storage and distribution. LOOP’s on-line market place was used to identify reuse opportunities within the community and further afield.
“Traditionally building materials go down the waste hierarchy much more quickly than is necessary,” explains Lydia Dutton, Co-Founder of LOOP. “Opportunities for reuse are being missed because industry processes lack the information and time required to find optimised reuse opportunities for materials.”
Demolition contractors on this project will have to show how they plan to make good reuse of the fittings and materials from the old buildings, but it is not just about the physical resources. The team looked for social benefits too, for example, could the deconstruction of a building offer training opportunities for college students or apprentices? Might there be innovative temporary uses for empty buildings pre-demolition, for example for pop-up exhibitions, community events or spaces for start-up businesses?
Circular by design
In the design phase, the circular approach means thinking about end-of-life issues from the start, for example in the choice of materials and the way they are used. Homes are built from bricks, not concrete, because they can be re-used when the house is eventually taken down. Clarion is looking at ways to work with kitchen and bathroom suppliers on take-back schemes, so that when rooms are refitted in the future, they can be sure that the old materials will be reused where possible or recycled effectively.
Clarion is demanding high standards of responsibility and resource efficiency from its supply chain and is keen to offer them the support they need in order to deliver that. Clarion’s recent supply chain conference to share understanding and learning of circular economy is a good example. “Circular thinking is the way the industry is heading,” says Paul. “The best practices that we are working on with our suppliers for this project will be a differentiator for them going forward.”
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