Ecofill: Earthworks technology to cut construction carbon and cost

Another insight into Ecofill penned by Infrastructure Global, the news and information platform for the international construction and infrastructure sector which is powered by FIDIC.

Ten percent of all global carbon emissions come from construction. Ecofill a brand new, UK based company has recently launched its new technology to the industry which will completely change the way we approach construction.

A modern method of construction significantly reduces carbon and cuts costs on a Global scale. So, what is Ecofill, how does it work and why has it come about?

The carbon challenge
The global infrastructure sector is under pressure to revive economies after the pandemic, reshape nations towards net zero, and to help achieve the UN’s sustainable Development Goals. It is also facing cost inflation, supply chain limitations and must tackle its own carbon output.

The industry’s leaders have been clear that while fine ambitions are all well and good, it is practical and scalable solutions that are needed. That led Infrastructure Global to visit Ecofill in the English county of Yorkshire to see one such solution up and running.

Turning clays & subsoil into an aggregate replacement product
Ecofill’s Innovation Hub based in Selby, is already busy. The 13-acre site, which opened its doors in June 2022 has already welcomed over fifty National and International well known construction firms, engineers, highways authorities, and senior industry professionals all keen to understand how the Ecofill process works and what it will do to assist in meeting the sustainable development goals. What it will do will be invaluable to the global decarbonisation challenge.

With plans for global expansion and machines worldwide, a single Ecofill machine which is mobilised to site can transform over 1,000 tonnes per day of on-site clays & subsoils into an aggregate replacement product per day. The Ecofill structural materials typically replace commonly used aggregates such as 6F5/6F2 & Type 1 subbase and meet all National & European Specifications for Highways & Earthworks and can be used for the construction of temporary and permanent earthworks & pavement structures across all sectors of the construction industry, including major infrastructure projects.

The ex-situ, patent protected technology & unique process combines the clays & subsoils with tailored Ecofill binders which are formulated to each specific ground type based on pre site investigation data. Once processed, the Ecofill products are then laid back into the ground and compacted. It is during this compaction that the Ecofill products solidify producing an earthworks foundation which will meet and exceed the structural performance required from traditional aggregates.

Validation & Verification
The process and the end products are fully tested and are validated by independent accredited laboratories. Certification of this process and the product has been crucial to the company’s early formation.

Seb Love, Ecofill’s Chief Technical Officer, explained why to Infrastructure Global.

“The team at Ecofill are from within the construction and quarrying industry so we have been able to ensure that we designed our process to meet every regulatory requirement. AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure firm, which is currently commissioned by the UK Government in the re-writing of various sections of the MCHW, Specification for Highways Works, has been independently commissioned by Ecofill to produce our comprehensive Quality Management Plan. This ensures our product meets and exceeds every requirement for use across the sector.”

Environmental impact
Sustainability is at the core of the Ecofill circular economy process and the carbon benefits are colossal. By significantly reducing the export of clays & subsoils to landfill, and the subsequent import of aggregates, Ecofill reduces the number of lorry movements to and from site by 98%. Which, compared to traditional methodology, reduces carbon and other harmful pollutants by around 96%. The ability to remove millions of lorries from our roads represents a major change in how we approach the construction.

75% of the UK Councils have declared a climate emergency. This significant reduction in lorry movements provides developers and local planners with a golden opportunity to help tackle the current climate crisis and assist in achieving their own sustainability goals.

Ecofill is having a major environmental impact in the construction of permanent earthworks structures. However, just as notable, is further opportunity which provides a more sustainable alternative to the construction of temporary access roads, haul roads and compounds.

The bespoke Ecofill binders are non-corrosive which makes them ideal for the use in green space and farmers’ fields for example. Once the structures have reached the end of their design life, our “D-Ecofill” process decommissions the structures, re-uses the materials once more and returns the ground to its original pH range and nutrient status.

It’s worth noting at this point that Ecofill can treat contaminated land providing the UK with an opportunity to unlock the 21,000 stalled brownfield sites, Nationwide

Love, explained: “Having been involved in the civil engineering sectors all of my career and witnessing the antiquated methods first hand, I wanted to invent and develop a technology which radically changes the way we approach earthworks and pavement construction.

“With this in mind, I wanted to create a solution that was more sustainable, affordable and something that will build a better future for generations to come. We have a system at Ecofill that can revolutionise the industry, take construction into a 21st century circular economy, reduce landfill and drastically cut carbon. The impact of the construction sector on the environment is enormous and Ecofill is having a huge, positive impact on that.”

Cost and risk benefits
For an industry faced with cost challenges and supply chain risk, The Ecofill solution represents another opportunity alongside cutting carbon. By transforming site won material into aggregate replacement products, clients are now in a position to significantly reduce the cost of earthworks construction by a staggering 40% on average.

Similarly, production of the Ecofill material on site means that the Ecofill offering reduces delays caused by supply problems. Many sites – especially in regions with soft ground – have to import aggregate from distant quarries and recent disruption to the global economy has highlighted the scale of risk attached to doing so.

Love suggests this is a key aspect to their appeal. “We can produce an aggregate replacement product on site for around 40%  less compared to traditional methodology and once our technology is on site, there’s less of a dependence on supply chains. Reducing carbon is hugely important but we know that construction costs are soaring, so reducing carbon while also reducing cost is something that the industry can’t ignore.”

The Ecofill Innovation Hub
The Innovation Hub is not a laboratory or test centre looking at something that may become valuable to the industry in the years ahead. It feels more like a construction site, which no doubt appeals to the industry figures now visiting each day to assess what can be achieved.

The site has a series of Traditional versus Ecofill ground structures to help demonstrate to visitors what Ecofill can do. The site also has one of its machines in place, so people can see the machine in action. It has attracted a lot of attention from industry professionals all seeking to lower costs and lower carbon.

“We’ve had many of the industries key players visit Selby to help understand what this change means,” explained Seb Love. “We are delighted that our Innovation Hub provides an opportunity to demonstrate how we are making significant change and all of the benefits Ecofill offers. We have been scrupulous in making sure we hit regulatory specs and these tangible demonstrations bring it all to life for those who have the big decisions to make.”

The Ecofill team are inviting all industry professionals to join them at Selby and encourage you to get in touch to book your preferred slot. More information can be found here: Ecofill Innovation Hub