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A new tool for assessing the circularity of bridge designs Circularity Innovation Technology

Designing circularly as much as possible

Infrastructure managers are facing the challenge of replacing bridges as circularly as possible. But when it comes to technology and public tendering in practice, this naturally raises questions such as: how can circularity be objectively evaluated with a view to applying it as an award criterion in the public tendering process? Are circular best practices distinguishable for certain types of constructions? And how can they be evaluated in a verifiable manner?
For a large municipality that is preparing for the circular replacement of (cycle) bridges, Iv-Infra has mapped out and developed a tool with which the municipality can objectively assess the circularity of bridge designs submitted by various providers during the tendering process. The objective set by the municipality was to standardise the way in which circularity is quoted. Hereby was also requested that firm advice regarding the most appropriate use of materials and construction techniques for a circular bridge would also be available.

Most appropriate use of materials and construction techniques

To gain insight into the most appropriate materials and construction techniques for circular bridges, Iv-Infra has made an overview indicating which materials are more suitable for circular construction for each type of bridge component. Among other things, the reusability of components was examined. For instance, when concrete is pured on site or supplied as precast concrete, it could be an interesting option to use concrete as bridge pillars/pylons because of its reausability. Aluminium is a commonly used material, but it has an intensive production process. Wood has the advantage that it is easy to dismantle and reuse. However, it is not recommended to use this material for components that are positioned in the ground or in the water.

Making an inventory of circular bridges worldwide

To be able to form a representation of what is possible regarding circular bridges, Iv-Infra has made an inventory of circular bridges worldwide based on the ReSOLVE framework. To give substance to circularity, the ReSOLVE framework comprises six forms: Regenerate, Share, Optimise, Loop, Virtualise and Exchange. This inventory led to a long list containing 40 circular bridges in which the characteristics for each bridge were listed and weighted. The long list was eventually reduced to a short list of just five bridges. This short list is composed of bridges that score highly on the ReSOLVE criteria as well as being sufficiently distinctive from each other. The top five, for example, includes an energy-neutral bridge (Queen Maxima Bridge in Alphen aan den Rijn) and a modular bridge (Ultrabridge in Rotterdam).

The most suitable tool

To investigate which tool is the most suitable for analysing and assessing circularity, Iv-Infra had assessed the most commonly used tools with regard to the use of the tool and the content. For example, we examined the following: the suitability of the tool for bridges, can the tool support decisions, is the tool kept up to date, the quality of the sources, objectivity, independence, possibilities for expansion and adaption, user-friendliness and proven quality (availability of references). In terms of content, we examined the extent to which the tool focusses on limiting the demand for new fossil fuels as well as preventing the use of fossil fuels.

Twelve tools were investigated in total. It was concluded that none of the available tools met the wishes on any of the aspects set out by the municipality. Iv-Infra has therefore developed a new tool that can be used for all types of bridges and which makes a distinction between contractors and designers. The designer or contractor must answer a series of questions based on the circles of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's circularity model. The smaller the circle, the more points awarded to the design. The questions are divided into four different categories: circularity (before and after useful life), circularity (during useful life), sustainability and other questions. The tool calculates the scores per category and gives a total score, thus providing a clear comparison between the different designers and contractors.
Would you like to know more about circularity? Arno will be pleased to tell you all about it. Contact him by email or call 088 943 3200.
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