CIES researchers win EPA grant for sustainable construction materials

Congratulations to CIES academics Dr Ailar HajimohammadiProf Stephen Foster and Dr Taehwan Kim on the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA)’s grant recently awarded for their geopolymer project with construction company John Holland. 

Funding of $249,987 has been awarded from the EPA’s Civil Construction Market Programto help develop and trial a low carbon Geopolymer Concrete (GPC) containing recycled crushed glass as a replacement for virgin sand. The project aims to unlock new markets from recycled glass in non-structural concrete in civil construction projects in NSW.

Dr Hajimohammadi has long been an advocate for sustainable construction materials. Her work investigates potentials for waste minimization and resource recovery, as well as smart design of construction materials and technologies to reduce negative environmental impacts.  

One of Dr Hajimohammadi’s most recent research publications reveals the benefits of utilizing glass waste in geopolymer concretes as a replacement for natural river sand, and it is this innovative  research which forms the basis for the partnership with John Holland. 

As she notes, “there is a shortage of natural sand in many countries, and the extraction of sand from rivers damages riverbanks and negatively impacts the coastal ecosystem.”

Sand mining causes instability problems to riverbanks, while the biodiversity of aquatic fauna and flora could drastically change as a result. Moreover, water quality may be negatively affected in the long run.

Yet due to increasing road and building construction projects, the demand for sand mining continues to grow. This demand cannot be sustainably met by natural river sand, and there is an urgent need for a suitable replacement, such as glass waste. Glass is rich in amorphous silica and can make a stronger geopolymer matrix compared to that of sand aggregates. 

Working with a major infrastructure construction and engineering company means that Dr Hajimohammadi and the team have a wonderful opportunity to really test and prove the performance of the recycled glass-based GPCs.  This in turn could lead to the development of industry specifications and standards to facilitate industry uptake of more environmentally friendly, lower carbon construction materials. 

Speaking on the EPA grants, Environment Minister Matt Kean said the funding will encourage the reuse of construction and demolition waste and encourage the use of recyclable materials such as glass and plastics in civil construction projects.

“Through this grant program, the NSW Government is boosting the future of recycling services in NSW, and helping industry prepare for the ban on the export of waste glass from Australia, coming into effect January next year” said the Minister.

Dr Hajimohammadi and the team will begin this research project with John Holland in December this year. All enquiries to

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