Re-inventing concrete for a more sustainable North-West Europe

Get to know the URBCON project, which has worked on the development of by-products for sustainable concrete in the urban environment
5 July 2023 by
Vinicius Valente

Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW) is one of the major direct outcomes of massive urbanisation in European regions and cities. It also constitutes waste stream with great potential for re-use and recycling of high value components. Although it accounts for over 30% of all waste produced in the European Union, recycling is however far from mainstream in this industry, as only 4% of CDW is currently re-used in Europe.
Finding sustainable solutions for the construction industry is particularly relevant for North-West Europe, as one of the EU’s most urbanised and densely populated areas. This is precisely the objective of the Interreg NWE project URBCON, that has applied by-products (such as metallurgical slags and combustion ashes) as alternative raw materials to concrete in the region.

Thanks to URBCON, different by-products and aggregates were characterised and tested for use in concrete and 54 tons of primary raw material are expected to be saved in the long-term. The project demonstrated their concept in three pilots located in Rotterdam (NL), Ghent (BE) and Westerloo (BE).

In Rotterdam, the municipality together with Delft University of Technology (NL) and the University of Sheffield (UK) led the construction of a pedestrian bridge using URBCON concrete and with innovative technologies to monitor the infrastructure.

In Ghent, the pilot consists of an outside fire escape, located at the primary school "De Zonnepoort". This staircase was built with URBCON prefab elements, which were a requirement to meet the fire safety regulations of the school.

Finally, in Westerloo, the pilot is the first circular office building in Flanders to be built on the demonstration and exposition site of Kamp C. The materials and technology used, including URBCON, will be showcased to users and visitors. “The most promising outcome is that traditional concrete factories are willing to put URBCON concrete in their regular portfolio”, stated Ann Bats.

The project brings together 13 partners from five countries:

  • Belgium: City of Ghent, Ghent University, ResourceFull BVBA, CWare, Kamp C and ArcelorMittal Belgium NV
  • France: Imerys
  • The Netherlands: Stadsontwikkeling Rotterdam, Technische Universiteit Delft, FDN Engineering
  • Germany: Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, VDZ gGmbH
  • United Kingdom: University of Sheffield

“The universities from Ghent, Sheffield, Kaiserslautern, and Delft collaborated on the testing of the concrete mixes. This resulted in the fact that all mixes were tested by all the labs at the universities. By doing so, the concrete factories can be sure that all the mixes underwent the same sort of testing on strength, freeze and thaw. All the labs also did several tests on the mixtures that were chosen for the pilot projects”, said Ann Bats.

The partners also exchanged experiences on the necessary permissions and procurement processes in the different countries. The purpose is to provide a handbook with the different legislations and the ways to deal with obtaining permissions.

The handbook provides city councils with information on how to procure and work with URBCON concrete, offering opportunities for other NWE cities to benefit from this new technology. In the long-term, the project expects new NWE regions to adopt URBCON concrete when setting up projects (e.g. urban constructions), contributing to implementation of more sustainable practices in the construction sector.

Key figures

€ 3.09 m
€ 5.15 m
Total budget

 Contact the project

Ann Bats

Lead partner - Stad Gent