Sustainable Concrete Solutions for Urban Rainwater Management

In an innovative project, researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are creating sustainable concrete from crushed shells, which are typically destined for landfill, and this could potentially aid in preventing flooding.

Sustainable Concrete Solutions for Urban Rainwater Management.

Image Credit: Thicha6327/

The rapid urbanization of European cities, coupled with the impacts of climate change, has turned the management of urban rainwater and runoff into a pressing issue for city planners. Urban areas often feature up to 75 % impermeable surfaces, a stark contrast to the 10 % found in natural settings, which severely limits water infiltration.

This leads to increased environmental and safety hazards, including the heightened risk of localized flooding and pollution. These challenges call for creative and effective urban planning solutions to mitigate the adverse effects and enhance resilience.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing urban rainwater management, Emmanuel Anike, Senior Product Developer, and Daniel Keller, Low Carbon, and Environmental Analyst, are leading a groundbreaking initiative to transform urban infrastructure with sustainable building materials.

Their project harnesses cutting-edge research and collaborative expertise to develop permeable surfaces made from recycled waste products, marking a significant shift in urban water management strategies.

Shells: A Sustainable Concrete Solution

In particular, the team has sourced new waste materials from the UK and French Channel coasts, primarily shell co-products, repurposing what would otherwise be waste into a permeable concrete that allows water to seep through. This sustainable solution is ideal for constructing footpaths, car parks, and garden areas, enhancing urban drainage, and reducing flood risks.

Currently, the concrete is undergoing testing at the garden of People's Pantry in Blackpool, a community food initiative that frequently experiences flooding. This initiative not only promotes environmental sustainability but also provides practical benefits in flood-prone areas.

Commercial Applicability

Dubbed the CIRCLE partnership, this project is renowned for creating environmentally friendly and commercially viable concrete formulations. These innovative ready-mix solutions are designed to meet market demands and enhance the decontamination of drained water, offering both infrastructural improvement and environmental protection.

To turn their vision into reality, Anike and Keller have partnered with industry giants. In the UK, they are engaging with Tarmac to utilize their extensive distribution network and technical expertise. In France, a collaboration with EQIOM leverages their comprehensive construction solutions, ensuring seamless integration into existing urban environments.

This project is underpinned by significant financial support from the Interreg V/A France (Channel) England program, which has allocated €1.9M from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), contributing to a total budget of approximately €2.8M. This funding not only validates the project's potential impact but also underscores the strategic importance of cross-border cooperation in tackling regional environmental challenges.

Future Outlook

As urban centers continue to expand and the impacts of climate change become more apparent, the success of the CIRCLE project could set a new standard for urban development. By pioneering sustainable solutions that integrate economic and environmental considerations, the project showcases how strategic partnerships and innovative thinking are essential to solving complex urban challenges.

This initiative not only aims to transform the landscape of urban rainwater management but also serves as a benchmark for future projects aiming to harmonize urban growth with environmental stewardship.

References and Further Reading

  1. UCLan (2024) Circle project, University of Central Lancashire. Available at: (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

  2. Hobson, J. (2024) Concrete made with Fleetwood shells could prevent floods, BBC News. Available at: (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

  3. UCLan (2024) Blackpool makes waves as the UK’s pioneer in seashell concrete testing, University of Central Lancashire. Available at: (Accessed: 13 May 2024).

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