Dr Liam Britnell left with Nathan Feddy


A start-up which is developing new techniques and materials for sustainable housing using ‘wonder material’ graphene has begun a major initiative after securing nearly £200,000 of government funding.

Manchester-based Vector Homes has been awarded a Smart Grant of £191,000 by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

The money will help fund a £275,000 research programme to develop graphene-enhanced recycled plastic formulations for residential construction.

The project will enhance polymers with nano-materials to increase strength, durability, thermal and acoustic performance and further recyclability.

Vector Homes chief executive and co-founder Nathan Feddy said the formulations could also have applications in a variety of other sectors, such as aerospace, automotive and packaging.

He said: “Securing funding from Innovate UK is a true vote of confidence in Vector as we begin our journey. There is intense competition for its Smart Grants, so we are honoured and thrilled to be awarded this funding.

“It enables us to kick-start our research project which will see us work with a supply chain of partners across the UK and beyond, including several multi-billion dollar companies.

“Our aim is to develop nano-material formulations which will greatly improve the sustainability and durability of the homes of the future. The construction and operation of the built environment accounts for 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and our mission is to help reduce its environmental impact as well as bringing down costs.”

Vector is ultimately looking to mass manufacture sustainable and affordable smart housing flat-packs from graphene-enhanced recycled materials.

The houses will feature hundreds of sensors which will help to provide smart environmental controls throughout.

The sensors will feed information to a ‘brain’ – the Vector Node – which will measure the temperature and humidity in each room.

The system will close roller blinds to keep rooms cool in the summer, or open bathroom vents in the winter to allow the humidity out. Each Vector home will also feature solar panels and the energy they generate will be stored in batteries which will be used to power the property.

Nathan said: “The materials used in our houses will be from recycled, energy efficient sources with a much lower carbon footprint than virgin materials. They can be recycled at end of life if they cannot be reused, contributing to the circular economy.

“Our homes have been designed to enable rapid production and assembly, and will have unique features that enable easy maintenance and modification throughout the life cycle, which also means they can quickly incorporate new technologies as they emerge.

“The design has already attracted interest from housing associations, which will be a key target market. They manage and maintain huge numbers of houses, which brings significant logistical challenges that Vector can address.”

Vector Homes is partnering with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester for the research project. Nathan and chief technical officer Dr Liam Britnell met while working there as colleagues before opting to focus full time on their venture earlier this year.

Nathan said: We are delighted to be joining the GEIC at the centre of Manchester’s world-leading advanced materials ecosystem. This partnership is a fantastic opportunity to develop the materials and systems that will enable us to achieve our goal of cutting carbon emissions and the costs of construction.

James Baker, chief executive of Graphene@Manchester, of which the GEIC is part, said: “It’s great to see high-calibre start-ups such as Vector Homes utilising graphene’s multifaceted capabilities to make a positive sustainable impact on critical problems.

“We look forward to supporting Vector Homes’ development in the Graphene@Manchester ecosystem.”

Assessors on the Innovate UK panel which awarded Vector Homes the grant said the company had identified ‘a potentially significant commercial opportunity for new construction materials offering improved fire safety and reduced environmental impact’, adding that its vision addresses many of the key issues facing future housing developments.

They praised Vector’s ‘excellent technical understanding, solid knowledge of the market and clear, well-defined propositions’ which should ensure the project is a success.

Bentley’s BIM (building information modelling) and iTwin technology helped establish a digital twin as part of the delivery of Asia’s first professional cargo airport, explains Teresa Elliott, senior director, industry marketing, Bentley Systems.

In the east of Ezhou in Hubei province, the new Ezhou Huahu International Airport is being developed as Asia’s first professional cargo airport and is expected to function as an aviation logistics port and multimodal international cargo hub for China. The CNY30.8bn project covers 11.89km2 and a construction area of 900,000m2 with 15 single units, including a passenger terminal and one of the world’s largest transfer centres. Positioned as a cargo hub, passenger transport branch line, public platform, and air cargo base, it has a planned annual capacity of 2.45 million tons of cargo and 1.5 million passengers by 2030. Hubei International Logistics Airport is responsible for overall airport construction and operation management.

Collaborative digitalisation is key
The large-scale project presented coordination challenges that required the integration of numerous elements of process equipment, systems, and participants, compounded by complex geological conditions and a tight timeline. Involving civil aviation, municipal administration, and construction industries, 29 different disciplines – consisting of more than 50 parties and over 600 on-site personnel – needed to collaborate across various locations. Hubei wanted to implement comprehensive BIM application and collaborative digital workflows. However, faced with no existing civil aviation BIM standards and 25 million model components, the company realised that it needed a digital platform capable of supporting large volumes of multi-sourced data and intelligent lifecycle operations.

An integrated solution
Hubei selected Bentley’s BIM and iTwin technology to develop a 3D model of the airport and the first full-lifecycle digital construction management platform based on BIM standards in the China’s civil aviation industry. It used OpenRoads to develop a rapid professional modelling tool that contained 11 categories and 40 sub-items, and ProStructures and Navigator to coordinate structural modelling with the on-site construction team. ProjectWise provided a controlled, collaborative environment to manage and streamline the various multidiscipline workflows. Using the Bentley iTwin platform, Hubei integrated 25 million model components from the different software applications to develop a cloud-based, digital twin capable of incorporating the voluminous engineering and data components.

Savings and innovation
Working in an open connected data environment using Bentley’s BIM applications and ProjectWise helped Ezhou Huahu International Airport streamline multidiscipline collaboration, shortening model delivery time by 90 days and saving CNY12m. Compared to traditional construction methods, using Navigator to provide and engage the on-site construction team with the model improved productivity by 25%. Utilising Bentley’s cloud-based iTwin platform featuring large modelling capacity, the Hubei team established a digital twin supporting multi-sourced 3D models, attributes, and documents, resolving approximately 6,000 issues, and saving CNY300m (£36,631m) in costs. In addition to solving technological and coordination problems, the digital twin solution helped develop innovative digital management concepts and workflow processes to achieve full lifecycle BIM application for China’s civil aviation industry.

“Bentley iTwin’s super-capacity load technology has effectively solved the problem of multidata fusion of 25 million components in Ezhou Huahu Airport, providing a strong data guarantee for later construction management, operation, and maintenance,” concluded Zou Xianqiang, chief engineer, Hubei International Logistics Airport.


Source: Airports Internatioanal

The bridge had both a transverse and longitudinal slope.

The Rhine Bridge in Leverkusen is a heavily frequented section of Germany’s A1 highway. In order to adapt the bridge to increasing traffic volumes, it will be replaced with a new eight-lane structure.

SEH Engineering GmbH contracted Mammoet to move one bridge section to the installation position. Due to its weight of around 1,100t and dimensions of 66m by 34m, a full closure of the highway section was necessary. So, it was important that this operation proceeded to schedule, as reliably as possible.

The simplest approach – stacking the bridge section on the abutment benches using climbing jacks – could not be used because the bridge has a slope in both its the longitudinal and transverse directions. Therefore, the abutment benches would be both at an angle and at different end heights.

This approach would also require a longer road closure, so the engineering teams from both companies worked together to develop a different solution. This smart solution using Mammoet’s innovative special equipment would be able to lift the bridge from its supports, drive it to the installation location and set it down, all in one maneuver.
Four towers of Mammoet’s Mega Jack 500 system would be used for the job. This equipment lifts the load via the insertion of successive cassettes at ground level; reducing the need for work at height and manual handling on site.

Bridge segment being lowered, showing longitudinal slope.

When the team of specialists arrived at the project location, final work on the bridge segment was still in full swing. Due to a limited time window, lift preparations still began immediately – even though the limited space available made planning the route more difficult.

Due to a hole in the ground at the pre-assembly site, the bridge section was actually not accessible to the SPMTs.  The hole was needed for a pillar of the bypass bridge. Instead of filling and covering the hole, it was more efficient to slightly change the position of the bridge section. So, Mammoet’s team moved the bridge section one meter just before execution.

The repositioned bridge segment was then lifted with four climbing jacks so that three units of 24 axle line SPMT could be driven underneath. The gantry girders and Mega Jack 500 towers were then erected on the SPMTs.

The bridge section was maneuvered 300m across the confined site to the installation location, then lifted several meters further so that it could be driven over the abutments of different heights, before being lowered and installed. Throughout the operation, engineers on site monitored live load read-outs from the Mega Jack 500 system, ensuring every stage of the operation matched its planning phase.

The experienced team took advantage of every opportunity to save time. As a result, the work was completed on schedule and the highway section reopened to traffic on the planned date.

The new replacement Rhine bridge in Leverkusen is one of the largest and most challenging infrastructure construction projects in North Rhine-Westphalia. The new Rhine bridge is scheduled for completion at the end of 2023 and will eliminate traffic bottlenecks.




Planning approval has been granted for the £300M offshore wind foundation factory at Teesside Freeport.

South Korean steel manufacturer SeAH Wind can now push ahead with plans to construct the 40m-tall and 800m-long factory, which will be the largest in the world. It will sit on a 36.4ha site and have an internal volume of 105,000m3 – the same size as HS2’s enormous precast factory for the construction of the Colne Valley Viaduct. It will be an unheated space, with services concentrating on air quality and adaptable lighting to provide optimum working conditions while ensuring low energy consumption.

The factory will produce monopiles that will be up to 120m long and 15.5m in diameter, weighing 3,000t. This will be SeAH Wind’s first factory that is able to manufacture monopiles of this scale outside of South Korea.

Once operational, it is expected to produce between 100 and 150 monopiles annually. These will be transported directly from the factory to the adjacent South Bank Quay, where construction is underway and being overseen by Atkins and Faithful+Gould. From there, the monopiles will be taken out into the North Sea for installation at one of the windfarms using specialised pile driving equipment.

K2 Consultancy has been appointed as the project manager, construction manager and cost consultant. It has engaged a multi-disciplinary team that includes Ashton Smith Associates as the architects, Clarkebond as the civil, structural and geo-environmental engineers, and Waterman Group as the building services engineers.

Aside from the main monopile manufacturing building, the scheme will also deliver an administration office, a maintenance station, a paint facility and site-specific power stations. The design by Ashton Smith Associates has been developed to achieve a configuration that satisfies SeAH Wind’s operational requirements, ensuring that space is interconnected efficiently and safely, with all disciplines operating under one roof.

Site works will commence in July with an anticipated delivery date of 2024.

K2 director of project management Nick Coke said: “This is a tremendously exciting project for us building on our strong experience in the industrial manufacturing sector.  It gives us the opportunity to deliver a market-leading, world-class and pioneering facility that will kick-start much needed regeneration on Teesside.  This brings some fresh challenges as the project requires us to deliver for a Korean client new to the UK. In order to fast-track the project and to allow SeAH to speed their product to market, we are leveraging our expertise in construction management, allowing work to start on site at the earliest opportunity.”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “This is a fantastic step forward for SeAH Wind’s game-changing scheme. The first job has been advertised, the plans have been approved and now spades can get in the ground in just a matter of weeks. 2022 is our year of construction there’s nothing holding back plans for this mammoth facility, helping drive forward the cleaner, safer and healthier industries of the future.”

“Alongside these specialists, SeAH Wind has engaged with almost 200 local supply chain companies, detailing how they can get on board use our expertise and know-how to make its facility a reality. This will make sure it benefits our region in the short-term, while creating the well-paid, good-quality jobs of the future.”

Clarkebond director Theodore Tai said: “Being at the forefront of the design for the largest monopiles manufacturing facility, we are proud to engage in such an important energy scheme and fulfil the current government energy policy of exploring an alternative energy system for the UK market. Our in-house expertise has been collaboratively engaged with the Client and the professional team to achieve the first key milestone with the planning submission now submitted.”

Source: New Civil Engineer

Stelling Properties are pleased to announce that they have become members of Make Modular. Make Modular is the newly formed voice of modular housing and represents the most advanced form of housing construction in the UK.

Make Modular was formed as an independent body to represent the volumetric construction industry and act as a vehicle for its members to work collaboratively in addressing common issues. Make Modular’s main focus is:

  • Engage with Government and the Opposition to ensure that modular construction is understood and supported by Government.
  • Develop and share technical solutions and best practice.
  • Work with lenders, funders, and other financial institutions to create a robust economic environment for volumetric providers.
  • Articulate the past, present and future of the modular housing industry.
  • Deliver robust, evidence-based reports and policy recommendations.


“We are delighted to have joined Make UK Modular as core members. We firmly believe that volumetric modular construction has a significant part to play in the delivering the sustainable homes of the future, and as an industry we will be stronger and better placed to deliver on the current and future demand for high quality homes by working collaboratively. We look forward to working together to help create the right environment to make it possible” said Antonio Lopez Director of Building Operations and New Business Opportunities.

Steve Cole, Head of Make Modular said:

“We are delighted that Stelling Properties are joining Make Modular. Their primary focus is on collaboration, sharing best practice, alongside continuous development for the industry and as a company is a perfect alignment with our core values. The modular industry needs ambitious and innovative businesses like Stelling Properties to thrive. I look forward to working with them and all of our members to deliver our 2022 policy objectives.”

MP Bob Seely said we need solutions being implemented now

ISLE of Wight MP Bob Seely has joined the call for a more pro-active approach to solving the Island’s housing crisis.

He told the County Press the Isle of Wight Council needs to move faster with its Modern Methods of Construction and Relocatable Homes project, which includes modular buildings.

It comes after residents expressed serious concerns about how, six months on from throwing its weight behind modular, re-locatable houses, there appears to have been no movement from the local authority.

Yesterday, the council said it was still actively working with several providers who originally expressed an interest, and a decision is expected this summer.

To this, MP Bob Seely said: “The council needs to move faster. We are already in the summer and we don’t just need a decision — we need solutions being implemented now.

“It is not right that Island families are having to be provided with temporary housing on the mainland.

“The Isle of Wight Council, with its responsibility for housing and homelessness, should be pro-actively pursuing all options for expanding the availability of suitable housing provision here on the Island.

“In this regard, I welcome the announcement made by the local authority earlier this year to utilise modular, re-locatable homes to provide housing for the families most in need — as well as the significant allocation of funds in the budget for 2022/23 for taking this forward.

“As the County Press reported this week, it is disappointing that progress has not been made on this front.

“I understand there is an Island business — as Cllr Suzie Ellis has highlighted — that has submitted an expression of interest to the council six months ago and has heard nothing back.

Source:  The County Press

The Scottish Affairs Committee has this week visited Cologne in Germany where they have witnessed first-hand the country’s efforts to produce green hydrogen – hydrogen solely produced using renewable energy.

The visit complements the Committee’s ongoing inquiry, Hydrogen and carbon capture in Scotland, where MPs are considering the merits and drawbacks of both green and blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen is made from splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis, and blue hydrogen is made from splitting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

In 2020, the German Government published its hydrogen strategy which stated that it only considers green hydrogen to be sustainable in the long term. As a result, the country has ramped up efforts to produce green hydrogen, with one such site being the REFHYNE green hydrogen electrolyser in Cologne, where the Committee visited.

During the site visit, the Committee heard about how the REFHYNE project has developed through funding, and that pan-European team working was noted as a driver of the project. The Committee visited the REFHYNE electrolyser site, saw the PEM electrolyser and the vital supporting infrastructure including electricity management, water purification and delivery into the industrial process.

Committee Member’s Comment

Scottish Affairs Committee Member Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

“Visiting the green hydrogen production facility as Shell’s Rhineland site has provided the Scottish Affairs Committee with extremely useful insights into this emerging sector. The working partnerships within the REFHYNE Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, which built and supported this green hydrogen project, demonstrate how government and private sector organisations are able to work together effectively to establish new production facilities for green hydrogen. It is clear that legislators have a key role in working with organisations to help enable a transition to cleaner sources of energy, and we will use the information gathered on this visit to inform our inquiry into hydrogen and carbon capture and storage in Scotland.”

HS2’s ‘green tunnels’ will, when completed, be covered by earth, trees, and shrubs to fit in with the surrounding countryside:Credit: HS2

Start of work on pioneering ‘green tunnel’ announced by HS2

HS2 has announced the start of construction of its first innovative ‘green tunnel’ . This tunnel will be designed to blend the high-speed railway into the landscape and reduce disruption for communities. Unlike a normal underground tunnel, the 2.5km Chipping Warden green tunnel in Northamptonshire is being built on the surface using a pioneering off-site manufacturing approach to speed up construction and improve efficiency. This approach will see more than five thousand giant concrete tunnel segments made in a factory in Derbyshire before being assembled on site. The completed tunnel will then be covered by earth, with trees, shrubs and hedgerows planted to fit in with the surrounding countryside.



Chipping Warden is one of five ‘green tunnels’ that are being built on phase one of the HS2 project, which is designed to provide a low carbon alternative to car and air travel and improve links between London, Birmingham, and the North.

Applying lessons from the construction of the latest French high-speed lines, the off-site approach was developed by HS2’s main works contractor, EKFB, a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall. The tunnel segments are being made by Stanton Precast in Ilkeston Derbyshire as part of a contract which is set to create up to 100 local jobs.

“The Chipping Warden green tunnel is a great example of what we’re doing to reduce disruption for people living close to the railway, and it’s fantastic to see the first arches in position,” Rohan Perin, HS2 Ltd’s Project Client, said. “Our trains will be powered by zero carbon electricity but it’s also important to reduce the amount of carbon embedded in construction. The off-site manufacturing techniques being used will help cutting the overall amount of carbon-intensive concrete and steel in the tunnel and make the whole process faster, more efficient, and therefore less disruptive for the community.”

Designed as an m-shaped double arch, the tunnel will have separate halves for southbound and northbound trains, each one the height of two double-decker buses. Instead of casting the whole tunnel on site, five different concrete precast segments will be slotted together to achieve the double arch, one central pier, two side walls and two roof slabs. All 5,020 segments will be steel reinforced, with the largest weighing up to 43 tonnes.

Concrete and steel are some of the biggest sources of carbon emissions within the construction industry and by reducing the amount of both materials needed for the tunnel, this lighter-weight modular approach is expected to more than halve the amount of carbon embedded in the structure. It also requires less people and equipment on site, improving safety and reducing disruption for residents.

“This three-year construction programme will benefit from off-site manufacturing making the green tunnel build more efficient than the traditional on-site building method,” Jeremie Martin, EKFB’s Project Manager, said. “The HS2 green tunnels are a first of its kind in the UK. We have designed them as a twin arch ‘M’ shape which is more efficient than the standard box structure, reducing the amount of concrete required, which is a great example of how innovative engineering design can reduce carbon impact.”

The tunnel will be built in sections, with construction expected to be complete in 2024. Similar green tunnels will also be built at nearby Greatworth as well as Wendover in Buckinghamshire and Burton Green in Warwickshire, stretching for a combined total of more than four miles. The tunnels will all have specially designed ‘porous portals’ at either end to reduce the noise of trains entering and exiting the tunnel, along with small portal buildings to house safety and electrical equipment.

Source: Global Railway Review

A project planned for Ecuador is set to create a ‘Silicon Valley for the circular economy’.

Designs have been unveiled for a modular and sustainable village made from 3D-printed cacao waste. Cacao Eco Village will be located on the coast of Ecuador’s Manabi province, where farmers produce chocolate by extracting cocoa butter and solids from cacao beans. Designed by New York-based architectural practice Valentino Gareri Atelier for Ecuadorian chocolate manufacturer Muze and non-profit organisation Avanti, the village will boast 3D-printed structures built from recycled elements of agricultural crops. Construction will also incorporate other local materials such as bamboo and wood.

The modular design will create a self-sufficient village, with building facades drawing inspiration from the wide range of multi-coloured Ecuadorian houses and from the cacao trees’ colourful fruits. Decorative rooftop water tanks will collect rainwater.

The village will incorporate a cacao-processing chocolate factory, as well as an educational and research centre and co-working and co-living spaces. Also planned as a tourist destination, the beachside site will feature a large network of cycle paths and pedestrianised boulevards. Charging stations for electric cars will be provided throughout the community, with cars and trucks only allowed to drive in designated areas around the factory. Vegetation such as palm trees and large expanses of grass will cover the space between each cluster of modules that make up the village.

Valentino Gareri Atelier claims the project will create a Silicon Valley for circular economy innovators. “This sustainable and smart infrastructure emerges as a solution for the environmental and social impact of the cacao industry using a circular economy model as a creative solution for reducing environmental footprint, generating increased income, reducing resource dependency and minimising waste,”  he said.

Source: Engineering & Technology

Finnish materials technology company Betolar has been granted a patent for its innovative method for treating and converting mining waste material into a reinforcing binder, which can be used as a low-carbon alternative to cement.

The materials technology company Betolar has been granted a patent for a method and arrangement for treating and converting waste material into a reinforcing binder. In the future, the binder can be utilised commercially. Hence it creates value for the waste material now generating costs.

In the mining industry, the recovery and enrichment of metals generate globally large amounts of metallic effluent, sludge, and dregs, which are in many ways cumbersome to handle and risky for environmental safety. The treatment and storage of waste materials in mining areas also require massive storage pools.

The method developed and patented by Betolar heat-treats the waste material generated in the bioleaching process, causing it to become a reactive substance with a binder potential. It can be made into a reinforcing binder by a simple treatment to solidify and stabilize the end-use waste material.


“Our invention relates to a method by which wastewater, sludge and dregs can be treated and utilized, for example, in a mining area. Waste materials, such as gypsum sludge can also be used in other construction applications which will be of great value to Betolar’s business in the future,” says Juha Leppänen, Betolar’s Chief Innovation Officer.


The advantage of the patented solution is that the fractions and precipitates formed in the treatment of wastewater can be solidified simply and cost-effectively. Hardened materials can be stored in piles and holes. The use of such above-ground storage and disposal sites allows for space and cost savings. Above all, it is safer for the environment.

Placing liquid and sludge waste materials in tanks incurs costs throughout the life cycle of the tanks. Storage requires substantial investment in the storage pools as well as continuous monitoring and maintenance of the condition of the pools. The economic benefits arise from the reduction in investment and maintenance costs associated with the pools. In addition, value is created for the binder used elsewhere.


Betolar’s patent portfolio is rapidly strengthening

Betolar is a materials technology company. Research and development is an important business area for its success. Product development produces new inventions that generate new innovations for business needs. In connection with the company’s normal product development, innovations are created that, at best, lead to new value-added, patentable solutions for business needs.

“The ability to produce new solutions for the utilization of sidestreams is essential to the functioning of our ecosystem. Betolar has a rapidly growing patent portfolio considering its age. We have already obtained approved patents for five inventions of ours,” says Leppänen. Betolar has another five inventions in the process of approving a patent.