Young researcher awarded 65,000 euro from the Ramboll Foundation

Dr Colin M. Rose from University College London (UCL) receives the Flemming Bligaard Award 2020 for his research and work to develop and promote cross-laminated secondary timber in the building industry. Foundation Board member and Senior Group Director in Sustainability at Ramboll, Neel Strøbæk, explains the choice of Colin Rose: 

“11 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions come from the production of building materials, in particular steel and concrete. Colin’s research on secondary timber can help us in the industry bring down the emissions, and we truly support his mission,” says Neel Strøbæk and continues:  

“The aim of Colin’s research is to replace concrete and steel with a new mass timber product called cross-laminated secondary timber made out of reclaimed wood in layers, like scaled-up plywood. The use of CLST helps reduce CO2 emissions, as the timber contains less than half the embodied carbon of concrete and when sequestration is considered, timber has a carbon-negative impact,” says Neel Strøbæk. 

1 million tonnes of wood wasted

Colin Rose stepped away from architectural practice in 2013 to begin his research at UCL:

“As an architect, I wanted to be able to reduce my projects’ environmental impact by using locally available, discarded materials, rather than relying on importing new materials, and I have worked for the same cause as a researcher. I am very grateful to receive Ramboll’s support for this continued effort,” says Colin Rose and continues:  

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“On a global scale, we discard more than 5 billion tonnes of building materials. And in the UK alone, more than 1 million tonnes of wood are wasted annually. If we could channel just 10% of that material into CLST production, we would have enough CLST for 10,000 homes each year,” says Colin Rose.

Won’t happen overnight

The shift from steel and concrete won’t happen overnight. And therefore, one of the aims of Colin Rose’s research is to promote the benefits of reusing and repurposing materials from buildings and building sites: 

“I want to provoke the industry and push ideas about what’s possible and not possible. There is green momentum in construction right now. And within the next 10 years, it will be more attractive for to reuse building materials, such as timber,” says Colin Rose and continues: 

“But industry and governments need to work closely together to create the market for that. One of the barriers is that buildings are often demolished without considering reuse, because it is not a good business case to take them down brick by brick. The reason being that the CO2 embodied in their materials isn’t properly valued, and we rarely count the CO2 spent on new materials. Furthermore, we need to look at how we build, so that it will be easier in the future to separate and reuse materials,” says Colin Rose. 

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“My plan for this award is to progress my research into timber as a secondary resource, develop new links between the academic world and the construction industry, and add to the critical mass in applying circular economy thinking,” says Colin Rose.  


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