A spin-out company from Edinburgh is ramping up production of its eco-friendly bricks to more than two million per year after securing £1 million of funding from Zero Waste Scotland.

Kenoteq, which is also preparing to announce details of its first round of seed funding, expects to begin commercial sales of its K-Briq next year following scale-up of its production line at Hamilton Waste & Recycling in Musselburgh. K-Briq is the first in a series of circular economy products the company plans to bring to market in the next few years.

More than 90 per cent of Kenoteq’s bricks are made from recycled demolition and construction waste materials. They are said to produce just 10% of the CO2 emissions of a traditional fired brick, and require less than a tenth of the energy to manufacture.

K-Briq is based on the work of Professor Gabriela Medero from Heriot-Watt University following more than a decade of research and development into the creation of low-carbon products from recycled construction waste. She and Kenoteq managing director Sam Chapman co-founded the business in January 2020.

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Across Europe, the construction industry sends more than 800 million tonnes of waste to landfill every year. According to government estimates, construction and the built environment account for about half of all waste generated in Scotland.

“The K-Briq presents an opportunity for the construction sector to reduce landfill, limit reliance on finite resources and take advantage of waste materials to create a more sustainable and ecologically viable built environment,” Mr Chapman said.

“The K-Briq slashes energy use, both in its manufacturing process and also once in use as it has double the insulation properties of existing bricks and blocks. By using recycled pigments, it can be made in a range of colours providing flexibility to architects and design planners.”

HeraldScotland: Kenoteq managing director Sam ChapmanKenoteq managing director Sam Chapman

The new production line is being installed and tested over the course of the rest of this year, with building standards certification and sales expected in 2022. Currently employing five people, the expansion is expected to increase Kenoteq’s headcount by 15 during the next five years.

At two million annually, the production facility will turn out enough K-Briqs to build 924 low-carbon homes during its first five years in operation. Kenoteq expects to further increase production capacity at Hamilton’s, while also expanding to other sites through either a licensing or franchising model.

The funding has been provided by the Circular Economy Investment Fund, which is administered by Zero Waste Scotland with funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the Scottish Government. Zero Waste chief executive Iain Gulland said the K-Briq “aligns perfectly” with the goal of using products and resources responsibly.

“Construction relies heavily on finite resources and presents huge potential for circular economy interventions to reduce demand for, and waste of, virgin materials,” he said. “Innovation like the K-Briq can help to tackle climate change, deliver a more competitive Scottish economy, mitigating resource security and addressing the subject of corporate social responsibility within the sector.

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“As nations around the world commit to building a greener future, the K-Briq presents an achievable solution for one of the construction industry’s greatest challenges. Kenoteq is an excellent example of the abundant pioneering innovation in Scotland which can help to place us at the forefront of the global circular economy faster.”

Kenoteq said that once commercial-scale production is achieved at the end of this year, the K-Briq will be priced “competitively” with traditional clay fired facing bricks. The company is initially targeting “specification-led projects with exemplar architects” to enter the market.

Heriot-Watt University retains a shareholding in the business, along with its founders. Details of new private investors from the recently-completed seed funding round will be released in the coming weeks.

Several materials researchers have come up with ways to improve the brick in recent years to make it more environmentally friendly, although the results have rarely made it into mass production. They include a zero-waste brick that hardens at room temperature – thanks to human urine – and another that encourages plants and insects to live on its surface.