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LimesNet awards £50k to support international research missions

A new research network aimed at developing greener construction materials has awarded £50k to fund the research missions of its members and is looking for additional applications for a further £75k.

LimesNet, the Low Impact Materials and innovative Engineering Solutions Network, is a research network based at the University of Bath.

The network is building a community of researchers and industrialists that will carry out innovative research into materials and technologies with the aim of significantly reducing the environmental impact of new and existing infrastructure.

LimesNet has £125,000 funding available for international missions that will support knowledge gathering from international centres of research excellence, and allow the network to build sustainable research partnerships while identifying new challenges for construction materials research.

Existing members of the network have been awarded £50k of the available funding, and is now looking for new network members to join and apply for the remaining grants. The network is now seeking to recruit research members who generally work outside the traditional fields of construction materials to develop multidisciplinary solutions for challenges of low carbon construction materials and technologies.

The initial £50k of grants will fund five missions supporting 26 members. One mission to Portugal and Spain, led by Dr Martin Ansell of the University of Bath, will work with researchers to develop innovative technologies utilising waste fibres in novel composite materials.

Another mission, led by Professor David Muir Wood of Dundee University, will travel to the Netherlands and the USA to develop work on biological routes (bacteria) for the improvement of geo-materials.

Dr Julie Soden, Ulster University, is to lead a mission to North America. Working in the field of renewable materials, Julie’s visit will include a visit to Professor Mark West in Winnipeg, a leading expert in fabric formwork concrete structures.

Dr Jacqui Glass, Loughborough University, is leading a mission to MIT in the USA to work on whole life cycle impact of cement and concrete structures. Her visit will include workshop sessions with leading experts in low carbon concrete solutions from across North America.

Dr Tim Stratford, University of Edinburgh, will lead a team to North America to develop collaborative working on low impact concrete structure through efficient structural form. Improving efficiency of concrete elements, such as beams, columns and floor slabs, will lead to significant materials savings and carbon reductions. Concrete is the second most consumed material by humankind after water, and worldwide the production of cement alone is responsible for some five to ten per cent of all carbon emissions.

LimesNet membership comprises over 100 leading researchers and sector stakeholders, including product manufacturers, building designers, contractors, and clients.

The second funding round for International Mission Funding closes on Friday, 16 December 2011. Membership of LimesNet is free; anyone interested is encouraged to contact the network for further details.

Whilst modern building regulations have driven improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings in use, the construction industry is still largely reliant on materials developed in an age of cheap fossil fuel based energy.

The construction product industry has made significant improvements in materials manufacture, such as the use of cement replacement materials; greater recycling of steel; more energy efficient processes, and improvements in building energy performance, through increased levels of insulation. Despite this, many new buildings have an increased rather than a decreased level of embodied carbon.

Leading the network, Professor Pete Walker of the University of Bath said: "These international missions are an exciting opportunity for UK researchers to collaborate with leading experts worldwide, providing a basis on which to develop transformative research on construction materials and technologies.

"Following the missions we will host workshops in the UK for members to further develop their research within a multidisciplinary community comprising a large number of leading industry stakeholders."

LimesNet is supported for 12 months by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Initial membership is much larger than similar research networks, comprising researchers from over 30 leading UK universities.

Non-academic membership is drawn from across the construction sector including material and product manufacturers; ground and structural engineering consultants; construction contractors and subcontractors; architects and building environment engineers; and clients, property owners and procurers.

Members at the first network workshop included representatives from: Arup, Buro Happold, Carillion, CIRIA, Expedition Engineering, Forestry Research, Ibstock, Kier, Mineral Products Association, NHBC, Ramboll, and URS Scott Wilson.

Interested individuals and organisations from a wide range of backgrounds, with the potential for developing collaboration within the construction industry, are encouraged to contact LimesNet Network Coordinator, Eloise Spark at e.spark@bath.ac.uk.

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