design waste

Building of the week: a really rubbish bridge

In another life, I could happily have been an architect. I even looked into it at one point when choosing a university course, until I realised how long it takes to qualify and decidedly to focus on journalism instead. So I don’t get to build them, (except in Lego) but I still have a healthy interest in buildings.

I’m not just interested in the aesthetics of them either. Buildings are vital to creating a sustainable future, because heating and cooling them is the main source of household carbon emissions. Once you’ve built them, buildings remain in use for decades or even centuries, so every badly built, inefficient house being built today leaves a legacy of laziness and waste for future generations.

Following the mention of the ‘vertical forest’ project in Milan and London’s new solar bridge in the last few weeks, I thought I might run an occasional ‘building of the week’ series. If you’d like to suggest buildings or projects for it, you’d be more than welcome and here are some ground rules:

  1. ‘Buildings’ is loosely defined. They might be houses, bridges, factories, power stations or transport infrastructure.
  2. Projects should be either built or planned, rather than theoretical or fantasy buildings.
  3. I’m looking for sustainability innovations. It doesn’t have to be pretty or revolutionary – just smart ideas for building things better.

As a case in point, today’s building of the week is this boring looking  bridge. It’s not much of a looker, but it’s rather special. It’s the first bridge in Europe to be built out of recycled waste.

Ordinary household plastic waste was melted down and cast into pre-fabricated thermoplastic blocks, and then the bridge was assembled on site by the Royal Engineers. It’s sturdy enough to take heavy vehicles, and because it’s plastic, it won’t rust and never needs to be painted.

If and when it needs replacing, the whole thing can be melted down and recycled again, a truly cradle-to-cradle design.

The bridge is over the River Tweed in Scotland and was developed by composites company Vertech.

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