Cooling the planet by filtering excess carbon dioxide out of the air on an industrial scale would require a new, massive global industry – what would it need to work?

The year is 2050. Walk out of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas, and drive north across the sun-baked scrub where a few remaining oil pumpjacks nod lazily in the heat, and then you’ll see it: a glittering palace rising out of the pancake-flat ground. The land here is mirrored: the choppy silver-blue waves of an immense solar array stretch out in all directions. In the distance, they lap at a colossal grey wall five storeys high and almost a kilometre long. Behind the wall, you glimpse the snaking pipes and gantries of a chemical plant.

As you get closer you see the wall is moving, shimmering – it is entirely made up of huge fans whirring in steel boxes. You think to yourself that it looks like a gigantic air conditioning unit, blown up to incredible proportions. In a sense, that’s exactly what this is. You’re looking at a direct air capture (DAC) plant, one of tens of thousands like it across the globe. Together, they’re trying to cool the planet by sucking carbon dioxide out of the air. This Texan landscape was made famous for the billions of barrels of oil pulled out of its depths during the 20th Century. Now the legacy of those fossil fuels – the CO2 in our air – is being pumped back into the emptied reservoirs.

If the world is to meet Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2100, sights like this may be necessary by mid-century.

We have a climate change problem and it’s caused by an excess of CO2. With direct air capture, you can remove any emission, anywhere, from any moment in time – Steve Oldham

But step back for a moment to 2021, to Squamish, British Columbia where, against a bucolic skyline of snowy mountains, the finishing touches are being put to a barn-sized device covered in blue tarpaulin. When it becomes operational in September, Carbon Engineering’s prototype direct air capture plant will begin scrubbing a tonne of CO2 from the air every year. It is a small start, and a somewhat larger plant in Texas is in the works, but this is the typical scale of a DAC plant today.

“We have a climate change problem and it’s caused by an excess of CO2,” says Carbon Engineering chief executive Steve Oldham. “With DAC, you can remove any emission, anywhere, from any moment in time. It’s very powerful tool to have.”

Most carbon capture focuses on cleaning emissions at the source: scrubbers and filters on smokestacks that prevent harmful gases reaching the atmosphere. But this is impractical for small, numerous point sources like the planet’s billion or so automobiles. Nor can it address the CO2 that is already in the air. That’s where direct air capture comes in.

The number of things that would have to happen without direct air capture are so stretching and multiple it’s highly unlikely we can meet the Paris Agreements without it – Ajay Gambhir

If the world wants to avoid catastrophic climate change, switching to a carbon neutral society is not enough. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that limiting global warming to 1.5C by 2100 will require technologies such as DAC for “large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal measures” – large-scale meaning many billions of tonnes, or gigatonnes, each year. Elon Musk recently pledged $100m (£72m) to develop carbon capture technologies, while companies such as Microsoft, United Airlines and ExxonMobil are making billion-dollar investments in the field.

“Current models suggest we’re going to need to remove 10 gigatonnes of CO2 per year by 2050, and by the end of the century that number needs to double to 20 gigatonnes per year,” says Jane Zelikova, a climate scientist at the University of Wyoming. Right now, “we’re removing virtually none. We’re having to scale from zero.”

Carbon Engineering’s plant in Squamish is designed as a testbed for different technologies. But the firm is drawing up blueprints for a much larger plant in the oil fields of west Texas, which would fix 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually. “Once one is done, it’s a cookie cutter model, you simply build replicas of that plant,” says Oldham. Yet he admits the scale of the task ahead is dizzying. “We need to pull 800 gigatonnes out of the atmosphere. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Blue-sky thinking

The science of direct air capture is straightforward. There are several ways to do it, but the one that Carbon Engineering’s system uses fans to draw air containing 0.04% CO2 (today’s atmospheric levels) across a filter drenched in potassium hydroxide solution – a caustic chemical commonly known as potash, used in soapmaking and various other applications. The potash absorbs CO2 from the air, after which the liquid is piped to a second chamber and mixed with calcium hydroxide (builder’s lime). The lime seizes hold of the dissolved CO2, producing small flakes of limestone. These limestone flakes are sieved off and heated in a third chamber, called a calciner, until they decompose, giving off pure CO2, which is captured and stored. At each stage, the leftover chemical residues are recycled back in the process, forming a closed reaction that repeats endlessly with no waste materials.



We’re past the point where reducing emissions needed to take place. We’re locking in our reliance on DAC more and more – Jane Zelikova

With global carbon emissions continuing to rise, the climate target of 1.5C is looking less and less likely without interventions like this.

“The number of things that would have to happen without direct air capture are so stretching and multiple it’s highly unlikely we can meet the Paris Agreements without it,” says Ajay Gambhir, senior researcher at the Imperial College Grantham Institute for Climate Change and an author of a 2019 paper on the role of DAC in climate mitigation.

The IPCC does present some climate-stabilising models that don’t rely on direct air capture, but Gambhir says these are “extremely ambitious” in their assumptions about advances in energy efficiency and people’s willingness to change their behaviour.

“We’re past the point where reducing emissions needed to take place,” says Zelikova. “We’re locking in our reliance on DAC more and more.”

DAC is far from the only way carbon can be taken out of the atmosphere. Carbon can be removed naturally through land use changes such as restoring peatland, or most popularly, planting forests. But this is slow and would require huge tracts of valuable land – foresting an area the size of the United States, by some estimates, and driving up food prices five-fold in the process. And in the case of trees, the carbon removal effect is limited, as they will eventually die and release their stored carbon, unless they can be felled and burned in a closed system.


The scale of the challenge for carbon removal using technologies like DAC, rather than plants, is no less gargantuan. Gambhir’s paper calculates that simply keeping pace with global CO2 emissions – currently 36 gigatonnes per year – would mean building in the region of 30,000 large-scale DAC plants, more than three for every coal-fired power station operating in the world today. Each plant would cost up to $500m (£362m) to build – coming in at a cost of up to $15 trillion (£11tn).

Every one of those facilities would need to be stocked with solvent to absorb CO2. Supplying a fleet of DAC plants big enough to capture 10 gigatonnes of CO2 every year will require around four million tonnes of potassium hydroxide, the entire annual global supply of this chemical one and a half times over.

Carbon Engineering’s pilot plant in British Columbia, is the “cookie cutter” model

for much larger DAC plants (Credit: Carbon Engineering)

And once those thousands of DAC plants are built, they also need power to run. “If this was a global industry absorbing 10 gigatonnes of CO2 a year, you would be expending 100 exajoules, about a sixth of total global energy,” says Gambhir. Most of this energy is needed to heat the calciner to around 800C – too intense for electrical power alone, so each DAC plant would need a gas furnace, and a ready supply of gas.

Costing the planet

Estimates of how much it costs to capture a tonne of CO2 from the air vary widely, ranging from $100 to $1,000 (£72 to £720) per tonne. Oldham says that most figures are unduly pessimistic – he is confident that Climate Engineering can fix a tonne of carbon for as little as $94 (£68), especially once it becomes a widespread industrial process.

A bigger issue is figuring out where to send the bill. Incredibly, saving the world turns out to be a pretty hard sell, commercially speaking. Direct air capture does result in one valuable commodity, though: thousands of tonnes of compressed CO2. This can be combined with hydrogen to make synthetic, carbon-neutral fuel. That could then be sold or burned in the gas furnaces of the calciner (where the emissions would be captured and the cycle continue once again).

Surprisingly, one of the biggest customers for compressed CO2 is the fossil fuel industry.

As wells run dry, it’s not uncommon to squeeze the remaining oil out of the ground by pressuring the reservoir using steam or gas in a process called enhanced oil recovery. Carbon dioxide is a popular choice for this, and comes with additional benefit of locking that carbon underground, completing the final stage of carbon capture and storage. Occidental Petroleum, which has partnered with Carbon Engineering to build a full-scale DAC plant in Texas, uses 50 million tonnes of CO2 every year in enhanced oil recovery. Each tonne of CO2 used in this way is worth about $225 (£163) in tax credits alone.

It’s perhaps fitting that the CO2 in our air is eventually being returned underground to the oil fields from whence it came, although maybe ironic that the only way to finance this is in the pursuit of yet more oil. Occidental and others hope that by pumping CO2 into the ground, they can drastically reduce the carbon impact of that oil: a typical enhanced-recovery operation sequesters one tonne of CO2 for every 1.5 tonnes it ultimately releases in fresh oil. So while the process reduces the emissions associated with oil, it doesn’t balance the books.

Though there are other uses that may become more commercially viable. Another direct air capture company, Climeworks, has 14 smaller scale units in operation sequestering 900 tonnes of CO2 a year, which it sells to a greenhouse to enhance the growth of pickles. It’s now working on a longer-term solution: a plant under construction in Iceland will mix captured CO2 with water and pump it 500-600m (1,600-2,000ft) underground, where the gas will react with the surrounding basalt and turn to stone. To finance this, it offers businesses and citizens the ability to buy carbon offsets, starting at a mere €7 (£6) per month. Can the rest of the world be convinced to buy in?

“DAC is always going to cost money, and unless you’re paid to do it, there is no financial incentive,” says Chris Goodall, author of What We Need To Do Now: For A Zero Carbon Future. “Climeworks can sell credits to virtuous people, write contracts with Microsoft and Stripe to take a few hundred tonnes a year out of the atmosphere, but this needs to be scaled up a millionfold, and that requires someone to pay for it.

“There are subsidies for electric cars, cheap financing for solar plants, but you don’t see these for DAC,” says Oldham. “There is so much focus on emission reduction, but there isn’t the same degree of focus on the rest of the problem, the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere. The big impediment for DAC is that thinking isn’t in policy.”

Zelikova believes that DAC will follow a similar path to other climate technologies, and become more affordable. “We have well-developed cost curves showing how technology can go down in cost really quickly,” says Zelikova. “We surmounted similar hurdles with wind and solar. The biggest thing is to deploy them as much as possible. It’s important for government to support commercialisation – it has a role as a first customer, and a customer with very deep pockets.”

Goodall advocates for a global carbon tax, which would make it expensive to emit carbon unless offsets were purchased. But he recognises this is still a politically unpalatable option. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, especially if the externalities of our high-energy lifestyles – increasing wildfires, droughts, floods, sea level rise – are seen as being shouldered by somebody else.

Zelikova adds we also need broader conversation in society about how much these efforts should cost. “There is an enormous cost in climate change, in induced or exacerbated natural disasters. We need to do away with idea that DAC should be cheap.”

Risk and reward

Even if we agree to build 30,000 industrial scale DAC plants, find the chemical materials to run them, and the money to pay for it all, we won’t be out of the woods yet. In fact, we might end up in a worse position than before, thanks to a phenomenon known as mitigation deterrence.

“If you think DAC is going to be there in the medium- to long-term, you will not do as much near-term emissions reduction,” explains Gambhir. “If the scale-up goes wrong – if it turns out to be difficult to produce the sorbent, or that it degrades more quickly, if it’s trickier technologically, if turns out to be more expensive than expected, then in a sense by not acting quickly in the near-term, you’ve effectively locked yourself into a higher temperature pathway.”

Critics of DAC point out that much of its appeal lies in the promise of a hypothetical technology that allows us to continue living our carbon-rich lifestyles. Yet Oldham argues that for some hard-to-decarbonise industries, such as aviation, offsets that fund DAC might be the most viable option. “If it’s cheaper and easier to pull carbon out of air than to stop going up in the air, maybe that is what DAC plays in emission control.”

Gambhir argues that it’s not an “either-or” situation. “We need to rapidly reduce emissions in the near-term, but at same time, determinedly develop DAC to work out for sure if it’s going to be there for us in the future.” Zelikova agrees: “It’s a ‘yes, and’ situation,” she says. “DAC is a critical tool to balance out the carbon budget, so what we can’t eliminate today can be removed later.”

As Oldham seeks to scale up Carbon Engineering, the biggest fundamental factor is proving large scale DAC is “feasible, affordable and available”. If he’s successful, the future of our planet’s climate may once again be decided in the oil fields of Texas.

Source: Future Planet (BBC)


The flats are being built in Newhaven

A development of properties in Eastbourne town centre marks the first council homes ever to be constructed using modular technology.

The complex of 12 affordable flats is being built off-site in Newhaven by a specialist modular building company and then craned into place in Langney Road.

Cabinet Member for Housing Alan Shuttleworth, said, “It is really exciting to see a new development of affordable homes underway using highly sophisticated modular technology.“The site is currently being prepared for the arrival of the factory-built homes in the months to come.“New homes, rapid and efficient construction and residents on the council’s housing register living in them before the end of the year, it’s great news all-round.”

The design utilises Boutique Modern’s standard fabric first approach, maximising energy performance within each apartment through airtight construction and super insulation.

The housing scheme will also benefit from solar energy generation.

Cllr Shuttleworth added, “Although we only have a limited number of suitable areas where we can build, we have a number of sites within the built environment where we are bringing forward new schemes for affordable housing.

“This site in Langney Road is a good example of identifying a pocket of land in part of the town centre that will benefit greatly from these innovative and high-quality affordable new homes.”

Source: Eastbourne Herald

Synova and Technip Energies announce they have entered into a joint development and cooperation agreement to commercialize Synova’s advanced plastic waste-to-olefins technology, in conjunction with Technip Energies’ steam cracking technology.

Synova’s patented thermochemical recycling technology closes the gap in the plastic supply chain, by taking dirty and mixed plastic waste and breaking it down to its basic building blocks, such as olefin monomers and co-products, to produce circular plastics. The process has a low carbon footprint and displaces the need for virgin polymers, in addition to reducing the need for intensive plastic waste sorting.

The technology was invented by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), an independent Dutch research organization that, amongst others, develops technology relevant to the Circular Economy and Energy Transition. Together with Synova, the technology has been further developed, tested and piloted over a 15-year span.

Technip Energies brings its expertise in hydrocarbon treatment and purification, along with its unmatched experience in design, construction and upgrading steam cracker units to this partnership with Synova. The company will cooperate with Synova in the optimization and improvement of the plastic recycling technology.


“Chemical recycling is going to be a big business, and we have a technological advantage in the race”, said Van Morris, CEO of Synova. “Partnering with Technip Energies brings the expertise, skill and reputation to achieve the last mile of commercialization and allow this technology to provide a path to a more sustainable future.”

Stan Knez, Senior Vice-President Technip Energies Process Technology, stated: “Technip Energies is founded on the vision of accelerating the energy transition for a better tomorrow. This partnership with Synova supports our vision by providing consumers, manufacturers and plastic producers a circular economy route, using recycled monomers from end-of-life plastic waste.  The symbiotic coupling of the Technip Energies steam cracker knowledge and Synova technology provides a comprehensive offering.”

The result of the strategic partnership will provide a unique waste-to-olefins solution, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and end-of-life plastic pollution by closing the loop in support of a circular economy. The approach gives consumer goods manufacturers a way to achieve recycled content targets, as well as the continued use of current packaging materials now that there is a process to recycle them.




Wattie Milne, production director, and Callum Milne, managing director, at RADIX

A Scottish manufacturer and supplier of ground screws has claimed its new low carbon alternatives to concrete will revolutionise the construction industry.

Dundee-based RADIX has worked with a network of collaborators to create a ground screw alternative to concrete foundations which can be installed all-year round and in any weather conditions, in off-grid or hard-to-access areas, cutting out the process of excavation.

The company has appointed Essex-based Red Leaf Group as a distribution partner to supply ground screw foundations to clients across the UK.

Having built its early client-base around the garden room market – due to the huge increase in home working – RADIX is now scaling up to meet the needs of other sectors.

In the last 12 months, the company has supplied around 20,000 ground screws across the UK, providing foundations for holiday lodges, house extensions and modular homes.

RADIX is also in talks with a local authority considering swapping concrete for ground screws for a new social housing development project.

Callum Milne, managing director at RADIX, commented: “We are now seeing the demand from countless sectors over the country and, with years of technical knowhow and manufacturing expertise at our fingertips, are preparing to innovate further, allowing construction projects across the UK to up their game and build faster, with less mess, cost and disruption.”

Christian Alexander, chief executive at Red Leaf Group, said: “With sustainability, efficiency and ease of installation right at the heart of the products’ core benefits, ground screw foundations align perfectly with Red Leaf’s progressive and innovative business approach.”

RADIX launched in 2019 and has since moved into a new 3,000 sq ft premises in Dundee. It has more than 40,000 sq ft of office, manufacturing, warehouse and distribution centres.




Work has started on a controversial modular housing development in Bristol.

The homes are being built in a factory in Yorkshire and will be assembled on site in the city

A total of 185 homes are being built at the Bonnington Walk scheme in Lockleaze, including 64 council houses and 29 shared ownership properties.

The homes follow a deal between Bristol City Council and and Legal & General Modular Homes, which will manufacture the buildings off site from its factory in Sherburn-in-Elmet in Yorkshire.

The plans were approved in November 2020 despite objections over road safety, concerns over wildlife and loss of open space and allotments, which are being moved to nearby land off Dovercourt Road.

The Bristol Tree Forum also objected to hundreds of trees being felled, Bristol Live reported. A planning officer said 271 trees would be removed but 400 new ones planted on site and 55 elsewhere.

Bristol City councillor Gill Kirk said at a council meeting in November the new affordable homes would “change the lives” of a lot of people and it supported the application.

The local authority’s development control committee voted unanimously to grant permission subject to conditions and detailed contracts being finalised.

The proposed development includes a mixture of two-to-four-bedroom houses and one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as new allotment patches, green open space, a new local community hub, and walking, cycling and road improvements.

According to Legal & General Modular Homes, once the land is prepared, the homes can be assembled on site within eight weeks, with work already started on site clearance.

This will be followed by the formation of the new access roads and the construction of sewers, with the first modules to be delivered arriving in summer, the company said.

Rosie Toogood, chief executive of Legal & General Modular Homes, said: “Acquiring and beginning construction on Lockleaze is an exciting milestone for the business as we see our modular homes becoming part of communities across the UK.

“The modular construction sector is transforming the way homes are built and addressing the housing shortage. This forms part of our purpose of investing society’s capital for society’s benefit.

“The housing crisis is a human crisis and only more important as part of the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, and as people become more aware of the link between their health and wellbeing, and their homes and supporting communities.”

All homes will have an energy performance certificate (EPC) standard A, according to Legal & General Modular Homes.

It said the combination of air source heat pumps, photovoltaic cells and build standards would put the homes in the top 1% for energy performance.

Legal & General said its modular housing business had continued to grow and it was looking to hire an additional 350 employees in 2021, to deliver its growing pipeline, as well as supporting the UK’s bounce back post Covid-19.

The company has made a number of significant investments in Bristol in recent years, including having a £240m stake in the regeneration of Temple Quarter, a build-to-rent development and a proposed major mixed-use scheme on Temple Island.


Source: Bristol Live


HS2 Ltd has announced a pilot project to repurpose worn-out wind turbine blades for use on the high speed rail project.

The innovation, believed to be a world first, will use suitable sections cut from decommissioned wind turbine blades in reinforced concrete instead of steel rebar.

HS2 Ltd estimates that the world-first project will cut carbon production by up to 90%.

The initiative is being taken forward under HS2 Ltd’s innovation programme by Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture, and the UK’s National Composites Centre, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

HS2 Ltd innovation manager Rob Cairns said: “Reusing old turbine blades reduces waste, cuts demand for new steel and reduces the carbon generated during the production of concrete.

“This scheme is a brilliant example of the innovation happening on the whole HS2 project. If our world-first pilot project goes well, we could see a waste product from the energy industry becoming an essential material for the construction sector in the future.”

By 2023, around 15,000 turbine blades will have been decommissioned across the UK and EU. Until now, expired blades have either been ground down to be used as building materials or sent to energy-from-waste incinerators.

The innovative project will swap steel rebar, traditionally used to reinforce concrete, with sections of glass fibre reinforced polymer turbine blades that have reached the end of their operational lives generating low carbon electricity.



Skanska Costain Strabag Joint Venture’s innovation manger Harrison O’Hara added: “Wind turbine blades are extremely difficult to recycle. Ideas of what to do with them after they’re taken down range from turning them into playground slides to processing them into pellets for glues and paints.

“What’s potentially so significant about this innovation is that unlike some other turbine blade recycling initiatives, which involve reprocessing, our innovation reinforces concrete with sections simply cut from the turbines – massively reducing the carbon produced in repurposing the blades.”

NCC head of construction and infrastructure Graeme Jeremy added: “We’re looking forward to supporting this project. Composite materials offer huge benefits to a number of different industries, and finding new, sustainable uses for them as they are decommissioned from their first life is a challenge we’re finding solutions for all the time.”

With the innovation at an early stage, reuse will focus on swapping steel for turbine blades in low stress structures such as temporary access roads, top sections of concrete walls and ground bearing plinths – like those on which a portacabin might sit.

Work on the proof of concept pilot is due to start in Spring 2021 and, if successful, could be followed by a full roll out across HS2’s London tunnels between the M25 motorway and Euston station.


Source: New Civil Engineer


AIMCH housebuilding innovation project publishes encouraging results for advanced MMC 

 Advanced Industrialised Methods for the Construction of Homes (AIMCH), the innovation consortium set up to transform the housebuilding sector, has today published its second-year progress report showing encouraging results and key learnings for the sector.  AIMCH is a three-year research & development project aiming to help tackle the UK housing crisis by building new homes faster, to higher quality and more cost effectively than masonry methods using panelised MMC systems.

This latest report to be published by AIMCH highlights several key learnings for the industry across several important and innovative areas. One of the highlights being able to achieve a weather tight, insulated and secure superstructure in just one day. All advanced panelised MMC systems and lean construction solutions trialled so far have been successful and early analysis is recognising the benefits of these advanced panelised MMC systems with the hard data to back it up.


Other important outputs of the project in the last year include the completion of several studies and the publication of guides for industry:

  • Design standardisation and the development of product families
  • Guide to creating a BIM housing manual
  • Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA)
  • Designing a future factory


Stewart Dalgarno, AIMCH Project Director and Stewart Milne Group Director of Product Development, said: “Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the project team has worked hard to build momentum and has delivered some important outputs which confirm panelised modern methods of construction (MMC) as a very real and viable alternative to masonry, over the final year, we hope to take this to a new level.”


Mark Farmer, MMC expert and new AIMCH Chair, said: “Mainstreaming all categories of MMC is more important than ever.  In a post-Covid world the sector needs to transform productivity, improve quality as well as improving the welfare of its workforce.  We also need to find more sustainable ways of building in order to achieve a net zero-carbon built environment.


“The AIMCH project has already made great progress across a number of fronts which will better enable greater MMC adoption across all parts of industry including   SME’s. The work done on design standardisation, panelised and sub-assembly system applications, productivity and carbon measurement and manufacturing process optimisation are all rich sources of knowledge for others to learn from and use.”

A collaboration between Stewart Milne Group, Barratt Developments, L&Q, Forster Group, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), the project compares conventional and panelised MMC construction methods on actual building sites, and the impact scaling up panelised modern methods of construction (MMC) will have on the housebuilding industry.

The three-year AIMCH project, which has been live since early 2019, has been trialling new digital design tools, manufacturing advancements, and improved near-to-market offsite panelised MMC systems, using lean site processes on live housing projects over the past two years.

The project recognises the challenges of MMC manufacturing and through engagement with MTC, lead manufacturing partner, has conducted advanced manufacturing and digital business systems studies.  These include down selection process for a integrated ERP system for MMC manufacturing and installation, along with detailed proof of concept studies into specific manufacturing areas, where using robotics and advanced automation can improve MMC manufacturing output, productivity, quality and lower costs, including the design of future factories using mathematical models, dynamic simulation and 3D technology to improve investment decisions.

With decarbonisation of the built environment a priority, the project embarked on a study to measure and profile Embodied Carbon and Whole Life Costing in the use of MMC systems across four housing types to current and near zero carbon standards.  A strategy for a proof of concept, near zero carbon home trial was also developed with Barratt Developments.

The project also recognises the importance of SMEs and through Forster Group, roofing specialist, has helped accelerate their roofing technology, through collaborative learning and proof of concept trials with MTC and the AIMCH developers. Dissemination is important and provided by CSIC including presenting at several key industry events, a dedicated industry stakeholder group, project website and social media.

The goal of the project is to support the sector by delivering 120,000 homes for the same or less cost than traditional methods and built 30% quicker. The project has potential to impact on 35,000 homes being delivered by AIMCH partners across the UK each year.

In the project’s final year, a number of outputs and learnings for the sector will be completed and shared on the AIMCH website as well as at industry events, with final findings published in March 2022


You can read the full report here

Ancestral, but overshadowed by other technologies that have emerged over time, the rammed-earth walls are again gaining prominence in Brazil for being a low-impact, sustainable and economical solution. Known in Portuguese as taipa, it is a rudimentary construction system that compresses the earth into wooden boxes until it reaches an ideal density that allows a resistant and long-lasting structure.

Among the many benefits that rammed earth provides, its raw material is abundant, enabling the use of the same soil from the construction site, and reducing, therefore, the emission of carbon dioxide since it does not need long-distance transportation. In addition, it is non-toxic and provides a healthy environment in which the wall “breathes”, is fire resistant, and has excellent thermoacoustic insulation.

For example, in Arquipélago Arquitetos’s House in Cunha, the main walls are made from rammed earth. Using an authentic formwork system that avoids drilling and has developed a more efficient construction site, the modular components can be easily disassembled and reassembled. In addition, the rammed earth structures are tied by a concrete strap that serves as a support for the metal structure of the roof. The juxtaposed panels are solid enough to support the entire load weight of both the beam and roof.

Brazilian firm Argus Caruso decided to build the AA House, with rammed earth, in order to make the house breathe. Given the high humidity situation of Ubatuba, rammed earth could not be better. Employing several techniques, the foundation of the slab is in hyperadobe; the walls are built in the wattle-and-daub method and the structural wall is in rammed earth. For the architects, the top priority was to build a house with natural materials, ideally taken from the surroundings, but with a fine finish. The perfectly straight and smooth walls break the paradigm that a rammed-earth house is always crooked or badly completed.

All the soil generated by the earthmoving originated from the excavations of the foundations, can be used for the construction of rammed earth walls. In fact, this concept was used in the House in Mantiqueira, designed by Gui Paoliello in which the material was removed from the land itself and used in the foundation of three program-theme volumes (boxes) built with 30-cm thick (11.8-inches) earthen walls.

In the case of Guesthouse Paraty, designed by CRU! Architects, a 6.3-meter-long (21-feet-long) rammed red earth wall serves as soundproofing. As the site is on a slope, leveling was necessary. In this example, the raw material was also used with no extra energy required. In fact, the same formwork used for rammed earth was later applied to the roof structure.

Other features that architects seek to prioritize in the projects that adopt this ancient technique are color and texture. For example, at Estúdio OLO’s Casa Bosque, the orange rammed-earth structural wall works as an element that fits the intense chromatic palette of the project, which goes from the crimson kitchen to Sérgio Rodrigues’ Mole armchair in blue leather to the vibrant bookshelves at the end of the room.

Within the modern ways of adapting the use of rammed earth for the contemporary era, Casa Colinas features a unique system in the production of rammed earth structures with the use of metallic forms and the mechanization of the whole production process.








Source: Arch Daily



A new venture capital fund, 2150, has been launched to invest €200 million ($240 million) in start-up companies developing sustainable technologies to target the carbon footprint of cities. 


“Impact has been a dirty word, good for the world, but you’re not going to make any money on it. But we are capitalists – we are in this to make venture-style returns, and along the way have an impact on the planet. There are enough proof points now that those two can co-exist. These companies are going to outperform.”

2150 co-founder, Christian Hernandez


The advisory board for 2150, including former chief sustainability officer in the Obama administration and renowned urbanist and academic, Richard Florida, will review candidate firms working on everything from injecting carbon dioxide into concrete to monitoring energy use in buildings.

Based across London, Copenhagen and Berlin, 2150 was instigated by the fact that half the world lives in cities, increasing to two-thirds by 2050, creating an environmental impact the globe can ill-afford, given the climate crisis.

By fostering investment in sustainable urban technologies, the fund can enable construction firms and city planners to then use this technology to improve the environmental and climate intelligence of Europe’s cities.



“Our goal is to ensure the urban environment is liveable, healthy, and sustainable in 2150,” said Mikkel Bülow-Lehnsby, a co-founder of the fund and chairman of Nordic real estate company NREP.

Fellow 2150 co-founder, and a former Europe Facebook executive, Christian Hernandez, said the VC Fund is “driven by a desire to move the needle quicker and invest in companies which can affect big, systemic changes.”

The fund’s ambition was applauded by Michael Jansen, CEO of Cityzenith, creator of the Digital Twin 3D modelling platform, SmartWorldOS, able to visualise and co-ordinate exactly what is needed to transform cities and push back against Climate Change:

“Investment like that proposed by 2150 is vital to companies like ours. Cities produce more than 70%* of the earth’s greenhouse gases – the world’s 100 biggest urban carbon-emitters alone produce 18%**. It’s why we launched our ‘Clean Cities – Clean Future’ campaign to donate SmartWorldOS to key cities, one at a time as they strive to become carbon neutral.

“By handling massive data streams harnessed to cutting-edge AI, we have delivered custom climate resilience applications to greenfield cities, real estate developments, and infrastructure projects. We know the issues and have the capabilities to help solve them for those who design, build, and manage cities.”

New construction materials, and algorithms that make buildings more efficient to manage will be the 2150 fund’s priority; it launched in February with €130m already accumulated and is expected to close with €200m by mid-2021.

Early 2021 has seen a surge in sustainability and Climate Change focused action: the ESG-focused fund FootPrint Coalition Ventures was announced in January by Hollywood ‘Iron Man’ actor Robert Downey Jr, with major funds also launched in France and Germany.

And Bloomberg reported how banks and corporations issued a record $300bn of green bonds in 2020, while the EU committed €1tn last year to net-zero projects.



Before Covid-19, the interest in modern methods of construction (MMC) was growing – albeit slowly – but the pandemic has certainly sped things up.

The benefits of modular construction are no secret – increased safety on site and schedule certainty, as well as less material waste and fewer delays. Yet, despite many within the industry calling for greater use, modular take up has remained slow and currently only accounts for a very small percentage of housing delivery.

However, the recent lockdown measures and all the subsequent restrictions put in place – along with the government’s ‘Build Build Build’ and ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ pledges – has seen greater emphasis placed on its utilisation as developers and housebuilders look for innovative solutions to deliver much-needed housing quickly.

Traditional housebuilding is still by far the primary build method in the UK, but the last few months have forced the wider industry to start thinking differently. The sector has looked at how they can innovate, adapt, and ultimately build more homes in the face of the pandemic.

The proportion of new homes built using MMC is therefore predicted to increase from the current 6-10% to 20% of the market share in the coming years, according to the last report from Savills. This is great news for the industry but in order to meet not only the UK’s housing delivery target but its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 – this has to increase.

I believe the industry has been slow to accept MMC because it is largely misunderstood. There is a stigma around modular and a general hesitance to change as people are used to working in the traditional way. There is also a perception that the product is low quality and has no integrity of design, but that simply isn’t the case now.


There is a real lack of knowledge within the sector about modular and this reluctance to learn is stunting innovation and growth in the residential sector – and ultimately preventing us from quickly building more homes.

The pandemic has started to change this as developers and landowners are beginning to consider how to move forwards. For instance, we have started to see local authorities look towards modular building as a way to unlock residential sites to deliver affordable housing.

One such project that we’re currently working on is with Bassetlaw District Council alongside Faithful+Gould. The modular housing scheme is the first MMC project for the authority and will deliver 120 homes in Nottinghamshire.

We are responsible for looking at the flood risk, drainage, transport, and structural design as well as providing specialist MMC advice and the project marks our tenth modular scheme.

It’s therefore clear that more and more decision makers are waking up to the fact that modular housing is an incredibly viable option for a post-pandemic recovery. But we still need to go further.

Developments such as the one with Bassetlaw District Council help deliver modern, innovative and energy efficient residential schemes that improve neighbourhoods, support local jobs as well as the council’s ambition to increase its housing delivery.

However, we need it on a wider scale to really make a dent in the 300,000 new homes target set by the government. The scale of our work has definitely increased – from roughly ten units on a development to almost 700 on our most recent scheme – so I just hope we continue to see action rather than all the talk of pre-Covid times.

By Wayne Oakes is director at multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy Dice


Source: Civil Engineer