R-Urban London


Accelerated Composter at Cody Docks

Wonderful to meet Simon who is one of the people behind the quietly transformative Gasworks Docks Partnership in West Ham. A charity set up to re-claim this disused dock in the industrial heartland at the river lea and bring it back into community use. Quietly tucked away in the industrial estate they are transforming this former industrial waste land into a little oasis of social enterprises.

Amongst a floating Geodesic dome, reed beds, boats on stills and mobile planters is a large accelerated composter which was inherited from Newham. Its not quite an anerobic digester which we assumed it might be but rather a hot chamber which churns out compost in only 12 days. Still quite impressive.

A Digester for the Wick

Tom and Fausto inspecting the digester

Fausto holding up the biogas lamp.

The fermented liquid is collected in a barrael and provides fertilizer for the garden

Throughout last year Fausto has been running this anareobic digester at the Urban bee lodge in Kennington Park. It has been dorment over the winter and we initally thought that it might be possible to bring it to the Wick as it seemed access to requierments in Kennington. The good news is that the Urban Bee Lodge has more volunteers to run and promote the digester in Kennington, which also means we can't bring it Hackney Wick. Inspired by what we saw in Kenningtons plans were hatched to build our own digester re-using existing components and making it fit local requierments.

The digester in Kennington was a demonstration model designed by Loo Watts. It was extremely useful to see how it works and what level of maintanance which is requiered.

Contracting Re-use in the Queen Elizabeth II Park Transformation

The LLDC has taken over the London 2012 Olympic site, and is responsible for transforming a Games venue into a piece of city. But they are reluctant at present to talk about how they are managing re-use in what they term the ‘Queen Elizabeth II Park Transformation’.

Although the target of 90% re-use or recycling of demolition waste was exceeded during the initial building of the Olympic Park, with ‘only’ 7000 tonnes of waste going to landfill, A report by BioRegional (here) concludes that more could have been done to re-use and reclaim materials rather than simply downcycling them to inferior grades of usage; re-used or reclaimed materials made up only 0.5% of the original target.

However, although elements of the park are set to re-open in a phased manner, the ‘transformation’ will take place over an extended period of time. There is therefore roughly a 5 to 15 year window when re-use will be possible for materials coming from the transformation works - and new construction on sites currently marked for interim use - will be possible. It is rumoured that the new contracts - for transformation of the park to legacy mode - differentiate between ‘re-use’ and ‘recycling’, although what targets are set for each, within the magic 90% target figure, remains unclear.

Contractor Bam Nuttall has been awarded the £70million ‘clear, connect, complete’ Legacy contract by the LLDC. The work is split into two contracts – a £27M North Park and £49M South Park development – in which Bam Nuttall will clear the games temporary venues, walkways and roads and connect the park with new roads, cycle and pedestrian paths, and complete the permanent venues, bridges and parklands. Details of the work to be completed can be found here. Additionally, Balfour Beatty has been awarded a £50million contract to run services and facilities at the Park over the next ten years, including Estates Management, which inevitably touches upon how waste is managed, re-used and redistributed. Add to this understanding the observation that Bam Nuttall also won - and in some cases still holds - a number of other Olympic contracts; the initial £360million site remediation, a £122million contract for the South Park Roads & Bridges and £70million for North Park. In all, there is around £300million available for ‘transformation’, with contracts for the Aquatics Centre, Stadium, visitor centres and playgrounds and South Plaza yet to be awarded. With such a compartmentalised approach to delivery, I do wonder how easy it will be to manage ‘re-use’ holistically across the site and its surrounding communities.

Tracking down the 10%

A contract for some of the 10% appears to have been agreed with the National Community Wood Recycling Project - although some material we were aiming to get our hands on has ended up at their Gravesend’ Local Enterprise’ centre(even though they have a facility nearer, in Bromley). This madness seems to result from way re-use contracts are arranged, despite the aspiration to see as much of the Olympic material re-used in local communities. Pre-qualification seems to rule out interested parties simply turning up to claim some material - you need an articulated truck to access the disposal sites, and seemingly to have been ‘screened’. It is also necessary to provide some guarantee as to how the material will be re-used, and presumably re-users will be expected to be available for publicity related interviews and exposés.

It is possible to get some low value materials - such as pallet wood, part-cut sheets of ply, 1m or 1.5m lengths of 2x3 - for free from the NCWRCP depots at Gravesend, Bromley, Romford (its operator is currently ‘off-line’), who also manage reclamation of timber from other projects besides the Olympics. It is often best just to go and have a look, and to negotiate.

At a recent Wick Session on Re-use, Moira Lascelles from the Architecture Foundation spoke about her work researching the viability of building a Re-use Centre in East London. Looking to prove that an ‘audience’ exists with enough ‘traction’ to underpin a viable business model, they are publishing soon, as part of a wider interim-use piece of work for the LLDC that looks at both UK and international case-studies of re-use operations.

There is certainly an appetite for re-using materials. The LLDC have also put out a tender for a local-level re-use services; there is a contract out there - but it is unclear about the details of the contract being tendered - who could apply? What are the likely, onorous, pre-qualification conditions? People also often do not know about the tax-breaks - If you are a charity and you use recycled materials that are donated, you can reclaim gift aid on the donations.

Cre8 ARC

Some of the elusive material available to ‘local communities’ has turned up at the Cre8 Lifestyle Centre, where they are constructing the Cre8 ARC - a site-specific ‘Earthship’ made from materials sourced from within 2miles.

Cre8 have been ‘dangling the carrot’ of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in front of Bam Nuttall and Balfour Beatty, and have uncovered some genuine souls as a result; as project-manager Martin puts it ‘the individuals are just like me and you - they want to be supportive - they just have this job to do too’. Whether through donations of materials that enable a tax breaks and box ticking, or through secondment of expert staff - such as mechanical and environmental engineers and financial planning specialists - Cre8 are harnessing the corporate will to be associated with ‘sustainable initiatives’.

In our study of their project, we hope to understand how they put their network to use in sourcing material through the Olympic mechanisms.

Useful Contacts

Bam Nuttall

Steve Hayward - steve.hayward@bamnuttall.co.uk

National Community Wood Recycling Project (head office - Brighton)

Ali Walmsley - T. 01273 203040

Contacts for Gravesend NCWRP Local Enterprise:

Web: here.

Contact: Jo(anne), Lee, Paul an Georgie

Contact for Bromley NWRC Local Enterprise:

Web: here.

Contact: Kevin Fletcher

Architecture Foundation:

Moira Lascelles - moira@architecturefoundation.org.uk

Balfour Beatty

Louise McCullough (Construction UK Enquiries) - T. 02072 166846


Very nice to meet Thomas Fletcher yesterday and delighted he will be hosting the next Wick Session preceeding one of their Banquets made entirely from waste food. Thomas also runs the Re-juce company from his self build kitchen at Victoria Wharf in Fish Island- obviously - entirely made from reclaimed material.

To find out more about the Banquets visit their Facbook page
or have a re-juice here.

Wick Session #9 on Affordability will be co-ordgansied by Richard Brown on the 23rd of March at Victoria Wharf. More info to be announce shortly.

Tin Tiles

We are working on a light weight skin for the float re-using old cans. In the process we are re-inventing the can opener ... We will be on site at Cre8 from next week onwards to build first prototypes of the components. Drop by if you want to join in or if you have old cans to contribute to the skin they are always welcomed.

join us in the new year

Join Charlie Seber and the R-urban-Wick team in building a first prototype for a plant regulated growing system using re-cycled materials. This method of bottom feeding allows plants to go unwatered for long periods of time. Date and location to be announced shortly on our website.

We will continue to build the modular system at the back of the WOW milk float and will run a series of public building workshops to allow participation in the building process and learn how to work with re-claimed timber.

In January and February we will be teaming up with the Cre8 Center in Hackney Wick who are in the midst of building London's first Earthship, a radically sustainable building made with recycled materials.


We are planning a Hackney Wick Community Garden walk to network the many garden initiatives in the area. If you are involved with gardening or any gardening projects in the vicinity please get in touch.


From early February we will be continuing to host Wick Sessions – talks, walks and workshops on a regular monthly basis starting in early February 2013. Follow our website for updates.