We’re used to reading about the substandard building of houses, but how about building a quality house from our own natural waste product? Thames Water manages Europe’s largest sewage treatment works in Beckton, in the London Borough of Newham, which is supplying dried sewage to create building blocks that will be used to build new homes and commercial properties.
In a process that deals with the waste from around four million Londoners, sewage is treated at the plant to separate solids from liquids, and the filtered and sanitised water is eventually returned to the river.
The solid material is incinerated in an energy-to-waste incinerator to sanitise it, which generates renewable energy which is used on the site. However, a new process, which is more energy efficient and cuts carbon dioxide emissions, is using the leftover ash that would otherwise have gone into landfill.
The dried ash residue is mixed with water, sand, carbon dioxide and a little cement to create 18,000 tonnes of synthetic aggregate. This material is then used to make 2.3 million construction blocks suitable for a range of building uses. The carbon-negative blocks are significantly heavier than standard, at 17 kg each. Energy generated from the burning process is used to fuel the process.
The process ‘locks in’ around 800 tonnes of carbon dioxide and replaces 18,000 tonnes of natural resources. The process is significantly more energy efficient that traditional methods, at the same time cutting carbon dioxide emissions that brick firing would have produced.
Beckton sewage works was built as part of London’s original 1864 waste network. However, the addition of an estimates 2.1 million people to the capital over the next 25 years will have a significant effect on its ability to process the amount sewage produced. London’s new ‘super sewer’, the new Thames Tideway Tunnel, is currently being built and includes a 25 km tunnel under London’s river. The new system will help prevent the tens of millions of tonnes of pollution that currently pollute the River Thames every year when the sewage system overflows after periods of heavy rain. Overflow from the Victorian sewers has caused homes and streets to flood but the new network, across 24 building sites from Acton in west London to Beckton in the east, is due for completion by 2024.
In its 2020-25 business plan, Thames Water has pledged to create sufficient renewal electricity to power 115,000 homes.
If you’re buying older property, even if you aren’t planning on moving into a castle, a Chartered Surveyor will overlook the condition and structural elements of your new property to help you safeguard your investment.