May 25, 2021

ReCreate project reuses concrete in new buildings

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Universities and companies in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany are deconstructing precast concrete intact and reusing them in new buildings

Reconciling the carbon conundrum in construction will not be a quick fix but researchers at Finland's Tampere University may have hit on a way of deconstructing concrete elements and reusing them in new buildings.

Its four-year ReCreate project, which has received €12.5 million of funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, involves universities and regional company clusters in  Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. All the country clusters will carry out their own pilot projects where they deconstruct precast concrete elements intact and reuse them in a new building.

“By reusing concrete elements, we can save an enormous amount of energy and raw materials,” says Satu Huuhka, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University, who leads the ReCreate project. “We are specifically looking to reuse the concrete elements as a whole, not as a raw material for something new."

Researchers at the Faculty of Built Environment have been carrying out ground-breaking research into the circular economy in the construction sector for a decade.

Long-term research on renovation and the lifecycle engineering of structures provides a solid foundation for the development of quality assurance procedures that will ensure the safety and integrity of the reused elements. This time, the researchers are set to explore not only the technical implementation of the solutions but also the business perspective.

Huuhka acknowledges there are many unanswerered questions, from assessing structural integrity to building code requirements - and ultimately how to turn ReCreate into a viable business. "We must also consider the social aspects: does the process require new skills or new ways of working?” he adds.

Tampere University researchers will also bring to the project their specialist expertise in circular economy business models, building regulations and law, and occupational sociology. The Finnish country cluster comprises Tampere University, Skanska, demolition company Umacon, precast concrete company Consolis Parma, engineering and consultancy company Ramboll, architecture firm Liike Oy Arkkitehtistudio and the City of Tampere. The communications partner is the Croatia Green Building Council.

Buildings generate nearly 40% of GHG emissions and the rising pace of construction - up to 2 trillion square feet could be added by 2060 - means finding a sustainable concrete solution is essential. 

Graphene concrete on firm foundations, CarbonCure accelerates growth and Nexii expands in US

Nationwide Engineering is claiming a world first today as it lays the world's first graphene concrete slab engineered for sustainability in a commercial setting. The new material is strengthened by around 30% compared to standard concrete and so significantly cutting material use

It has partnered with the University of Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting; graphene is an allotrope of carbon and the resulting mix with concrete produces a substance that area for area, is stronger than steel, it claims.

CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. It was named one of two winners in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE and the money will be used to accelerate its mission of reducing 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Carbon Cure believes the use of CO2 in concrete is expected to become a US$400 billion market opportunity.

Nexii designs and manufactures high-performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost-efficient and resilient in the face of climate change. It recently teamed up with actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, who will have an ownership stake and play an active role in Nexii’s upcoming manufacturing plant, which will be its second in the United States and sixth overall.

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May 20, 2021

The details behind the £2 billion KKR John Laing deal

Dominic Ellis
3 min
John Laing is set to capitalise on connectivity, renewable energy, transport and infrastructure projects after KKR announces £2 billion deal

Yesterday John Laing's board agreed unanimously to an all-cash £2 billion acquisition from Aqueduct Bidco, a newly formed company owned by funds advised by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) and its affiliates.

KKR has agreed to partner with Equitix, an experienced infrastructure investor, to jointly own John Laing's existing asset portfolio. Immediately following completion of the Acquisition, Equitix will acquire a 50 per cent shareholding in the existing asset portfolio which will continue to be managed by John Laing's management team.

It's a pivotal moment for John Laing. The company develops and owns mid-market infrastructure assets across the UK & Europe, North America, Latin America and Australia, and specialises in primary and secondary investment and asset management. 

Headquartered in London, it has operations in seven countries and invested in over 150 projects and businesses to date, across a range of sectors, including transport, social infrastructure, energy transition and digital infrastructure - all increasingly vital to 21st century life.

"KKR believes that John Laing has an attractive, established portfolio of infrastructure assets and a platform with significant expertise and growth potential," according to a statement issued to the London Stock Exchange. "These provide the appropriate risk/returns and an attractive pipeline of future infrastructure projects to meet the objectives of KKR's diversified core infrastructure strategy."

Specifically, KKR believes John Laing is well-placed to capitalise on connectivity, renewable energy and transport and growing demand for post-pandemic national infrastructure projects. The UK alone is planning to spend £40 billion on infrastructure projects.

Last month Brigid Investments, in which John Laing and Macquarie Capital are each 50% shareholders, announced it will invest in purpose-built, completed and let retirement living units developed in partnership with McCarthy Stone, the developer and manager of retirement communities. The investment is in line with its strategy of investing in platforms which are asset-backed, scalable and offer long-term, resilient cash flows.

Tara Davies, Partner and Co-Head of European Infrastructure at KKR, said: "Under private ownership and with flexible access to capital, John Laing can take a longer-term view as an owner and operator of assets during the next phase of its growth."

Connectivity is a growing sector, accelerated by COVID-19. John Laing has committed a total investment of up to €30 million (up to approximately £27 million) to acquire control of two German businesses, EFN eifel-net Internet-Provider GmbH and Jobst NET GmbH, and to fund the initial investment in fibre roll-out programmes over the next 12 months. 

EFN is a full-service provider offering mainly VSDL internet services to retail and business customers in rural areas and towns, predominantly in North Rhine-Westphalia, with a further presence in Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg in the western and southern part of Germany, whereas Jobst NET is a full-service provider offering mainly VSDL services to retail, business customers and housing associations in the northern part of Bavaria.

John Laing’s Chief Executive Ben Loomes, said: "The pandemic and lockdowns have meant that our reliance on digital connectivity has never been greater, and has accelerated the transition to a more digital economy. We believe that the development of fibre-to-the-premises connectivity will play a key role in enabling digital inclusion and sustainable economic growth."

Renewables marks something of a u-turn. Only last month, John Laing sold its Irish wind farm, Glencarbry, to Greencoat Renewables. "This divestment is in line with the Group’s strategy to reduce its exposure to Renewable Energy generation assets," it said, which followed sales of its Australian wind farm portfolio to First Sentier Investors, and in March, its Swedish wind farm, Rammeldalsberget, was sold to Slitevind AB for €8.9 million.

Yet a renewed focus on renewables would make sense, given decarbonisation is a strategic priority. The NGR project, for example, comprises the provision and maintenance of 75 new electric six-car trains for the South East Queensland suburban passenger rail network for a duration of 30 years and the construction and maintenance of a depot facility.

With KKR's support, the firm may look again on how best to join the green infrastructure dots. Ultimately companies of John Laing's stature will be the ones that decide whether net zero targets succeed or fail.

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