Kier has been delivering the Royal College of Art’s (RCA) state-of-the-art new academic studio and research building located at its Battersea campus as part of its development plan to transform it into a dynamic STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) postgraduate university.

In line with Kier’s ‘Building for a Sustainable World’ sustainability framework, our project team researched innovative ways to save carbon on their project. Here, contracts manager John Gribbin, explains how his team worked in partnership with our client RCA, supply chain member English Architectural Glazing Ltd and WICONA to find a carbon saving aluminium façade solution which resulted in a 135 tonne CO2 emissions saving.  

“Finding alternative low carbon materials to use on this project has been important to us and RCA. We needed to ensure any sustainable materials we used achieved high standards in performance, quality or price. To achieve this, we turned our focus to the façade on the Rausing Research & Innovation Building.

Rather than opting for a more traditional aluminium system, our team engaged with the RCA with sustainability in mind, to suggest a product that improves the buildings carbon footprint and provides better value. We decided to go with WICONA’s WICTEC 60 EL Evo low carbon aluminium facade solution, which is ‘urban mined’*, i.e. WICONA’s process of recycling discarded materials back into the production cycle, from aluminium which has been reclaimed from demolished buildings via Hydro’s CIRCAL® billets and is sorted, shredded and re-melted into new aluminium extrusions.

During the design stage a 3D model was prepared to aid the client’s visualisation. Visual and performance mock ups were also presented on site to undergo inspections and testing to ensure that the product would perform as required and the panels fit in with the look of the campus and surrounding buildings.

It was concluded that while there is no difference in performance, quality or price between the recycled aluminium option and the newly mined options,the latter has vast environmental benefits.

By using the Hydro CIRCAL® recycled low carbon aluminium facade solution, our project team saved 135 tonnes of CO2 emissions in comparison to a system utilising primary aluminium carrying the European average. At the time of ordering, the recycling process was in an early, limited capacity so it was only feasible to use this urban mined solution for 15% of the total façade.

If employed on projects today, a carbon footprint reduction of over 245 tons or 73% of CO2 emissions would be achievable from use of this material alone when compared to the European average for primary aluminium extrusion**.

Advantages include the reduction of the project’s embodied carbon and lowering the building’s ‘in use energy demand’ with an energy efficient façade, reducing the amount of carbon the building will use to run its services year on year. The building’s environmental impact at the end of its use is also reduced as the aluminium is fully recyclable and can be turned back into a new façade.

Delivering this project allowed us as a team to understand where we can make changes in our project delivery that can improve the building’s sustainability – not only while the project is being delivered, but also in the long term. I will take these learnings with me on future projects.”

*WICONA describes ‘urban mining ‘as their process of using Hydro’s CIRCAL® billets to recycle end of life, reclaimed post-consumer aluminum back into the production cycle which reduces waste and saves primary aluminium resources.

**European average CO2 emissions – Environmental Profile Report 2018

Photography by Geoff Crawford

Related content