Urban infra revolution - Circular economy materials and novel method development to produce recyclable and functional urban construction products

Submitted by UIA admin on Fri, 01/26/2018 - 10:03


Lappeenrannan kaupunki
City of Lappeenranta
Challenge addressed

Present urban infrastructure consists mainly of steel reinforced concrete based solutions. Both these materials contain high energy, virgin raw materials and are intensive in CO2 emissions. Alone in Lappeenranta area, CO2 emissions from cement and lime production is ca 393 000 ton/CO2e/a. Current production methods are time and labor intensive, and don’t allow innovative shapes nor additional functions to the products. Recyclability of concrete is restricted: recycling of steel reinforced concrete elements is a complex and costly process. These difficulties usually lead to the situation, that constructional waste remains landfilled and causes unwanted costs. Little attention is also paid into recyclability of modern geocomposite and geobeton materials. Except demolition waste, there are also other materials in industrial cities that are landfilled unnecessarily: tailings from mining, green liquor dreg and ashes from the forest industry and energy production. This project strives to sustainable, fully recyclable solutions for these local side streams that are large in volume but also challenging to reuse. In South Karelia, mining generated side streams and tailings are 884 000 ton/a. Tailing waste from partnering Nordkalk equals ca 170000 ton/a. Total amount of slags and ashes generated in the county is 21 507 t/a.

Available additive manufacturing technologies cannot yet meet the industrial scale need of construction industry. In addition, the materials struggle in meeting the quality standards of arctic conditions. This project strives for high quality, multifunctional, industrial scale urban construction in extreme weather areas. We want to bring the production close to the building site, use local raw materials and close the material loop in order to diminish the CO2 emissions of urban building and enhance zero waste arctic cities. Traditional construction industry is much regulated and experimentally restricted but still a key player when moving from high-energy society to circular economy, low-carbon society. Therefore, we want to take initiatives to develop and provide new platform to experiment sustainable urban innovations for vivid, modern, clean technology pioneering cities.

Solution proposed

New generation urban development is focusing a lot on smart technologies, but modern construction engineering has an important role when creating smart cities. Our circular economy and low-carbon solution will revolutionise the urban construction engineering. The side streams from industry are utilised in urban construction by combining them into a high-value material to replace concrete. CO2 emissions are reduced by avoiding the use of cement and preferring local material sources. Side streams are analyzed, characterized and modified by activation. Method to pre-treat and activate tailings is developed separately. Novel material formulas will be created, containing suitable side streams to be used as geopolymer binder (replacing cement) and as inorganic aggregates in geocomposites. An innovative fiber reinforced geocomposites will be developed to achieve the high standards of construction industry. Owing to this, a method to recycle the products directly after crushing can be developed and unnecessary dumping of constructional waste can be avoided. Lab scale items are prepared to test the material combinations, before they are used and tested in full-scale piloting, to ensure the quality, technical performance, safety and appearance of the materials and products in arctic climate conditions. Multifunctional and aesthetic products, that cannot to be prepared with conservative construction methods, will be designed to create a novel urban environment. The innovative future vision, Urban City 2050, is created and visualised in Virtual environment, in cooperation with designers and Stakeholders. Novel constructional solutions for the urban environment will be designed. Multifunctionality of the products is ensured with innovative shapes. Design restricted product methods are replaced with IT-directed device, and time and labor intensive methods with automated, additive manufacturing method. This allows a low-carbon and safe on-site building, avoiding disposable molds and unnecessary transportation. Selected pilot structures will be manufactured within the urban infra and their properties are tested in arctic climate conditions. Industrial piloting for more demanding conditions are piloted in the same way. To implement and finally benefit locally the project results, a viable sustainable business ecosystem is designed and environmental and socioeconomic impacts are assessed. The final implementation of the results demands the creation of the circular economy business model. Social and technical acceptance of the materials is crucial; this requires both chemical, physical and sociologic testing, and life cycle analysis. The final revolution and enhance in local business is possible, transferable and replicable globally, when the acceptance procedure and incorporation of product specifications are prepared.

  • City of Lappeenranta
  • Apila Group
  • UPM Kymmene
  • Lappeenranta University of Technology
  • Fimatec
  • Outotec
  • Imatra Region Development Company Ltd.
  • Nordkalk
  • Design Reform
  • Metsä Group
  • Saimaan ammattikorkeakoulu
  • Total Design
  • Stora Enso
Expected results

As an outcome of the project, the following results will be achieved:
• Closed loop in construction demonstrated: recyclable products of recycled materials for urban construction
• Unutilised side streams/recycled materials used as raw materials to avoid the use of virgin materials
• Technically improved new materials in closed loop urban structures applicable for extreme climates
• Revolutional, aesthetic, safe multifunctional urban structures solving real urban issues e.g. neighborhood noise Control and safety protection
• Product acceptance procedures and criteria created
• Enhanced value-generating circular economy business for local industries
• Existing international markets for the solution
• Lower carbon emissions by replacing use of cement with circular materials and by use of recycled raw materials from local sources to reduce logistics CO2 production and transportation energy consumption.

These outcomes contribute directly to the ambitious goal on carbon free and waste free cities by reduced amount of unutilised waste from local industries and lower CO2 emissions. New innovative products and new industrial scale technology enhance the local industry business and accelerate the employment possibilities in circular economy. Developed materials and technology improve the safety of construction areas and enhance construction industry sustainability and productivity. Industrial symbiosis created add bilateral value for project partners and local construction industry creating improved possibilities to operate in South Karelia region which further on affects positively to the vitality of respected urban areas. Aesthetic urban scenery upgrades the living convenience in the City whereas multifunctional and technically improved urban structures strive for improved citizen welfare in the City by a holistic approach by enabling e.g. better noise Control, more versatile urban space usage and new possibilities for outdoor recreation and light traffic in extreme conditions.

Main milestones

June 2018: Novel material based on side streams from wood and mining industries is ready for lab-scale testing
December 2018: A virtual vision of “urban City 2050” is created with designers, policy-makers, citizens and other participants. A virtual pilot world located in South Karelia region is created, to describe the possibilities and to show a holistic view of what could be done
December 2019: Material development and method development are ready for full scale testing
November 2020: Pilot urban and industrial 3D printed structures from novel material are ready in their locations
November 2020: Viable sustainable business ecosystem of innovation, additive manufacturing construction elements from geocomposites utilising industrial side streams, is designed and environmental impacts are assessed.


“The City of Lappeenranta is committed to test and adapt circular economy technologies as well as business models. A mutual agenda with innovative companies helps us address environmental and economic issues simultaneously, for the benefit of Lappeenranta’s inhabitants. Urban Infra Revolution project is a great example, having truly global prospects for sustainable growth.”

Kimmo Jarva, Mayor of the City of Lappeenranta
The project in numbers
73 000
inhabitants live in Lappeenranta, making it a typical European medium-size city
reduction of CO2 emissions from 2007 level is the target for 2030
waste is the target for 2050
Contact of the project
Eeva Pihlajaniemi
Project manager

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