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Recycled materials drive sustainable construction of new M1 Emergency Areas

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Recycled and sustainably sourced aggregate material totalling over 300,000 tonnes is being used on a 28-mile stretch of the M1 near Sheffield as part of the national emergency area retrofit (NEAR) programme.

CR Civil Engineering is delivering for SMP Alliance and on-site assembly lead Costain on the scheme along the existing M1 smart motorway in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Currently, work is taking place between M1 junctions 28 and 35a, progressing in phases, with eight emergency areas (EA) under construction between junctions 30 and 31 since February and a further 21 EAs between junctions 28 and 30 under way since April.

Our Project Manager, Marc Owen added:

A key element of this project is to ensure that all aggregate materials used, as well as any earthworks waste, are sourced and handled to the highest environmental standards. Throughout the project, we have worked with recycled and sustainably sourced materials to build the EAs. Choosing the right materials has been a careful balance of meeting the standards prioritised by SMP Alliance in terms of sustainability goals and ensuring that these materials meet highways specifications. Protocols from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) sustainability charity have also been in place to ensure the appropriate handling of waste materials and muck-away earthworks waste.

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The recycled and sustainably sourced aggregate materials being used for these works include Class 1A and 1A1 fill, pipe bedding and surround, capping material and Recycled Type 1. These materials can include a mixture of recycled aggregate such as crushed concrete, brick and blockwork retrieved from demolition projects.

To help make the operations as efficient as possible, innovative GPS technology is being used on the excavators carrying out the earthworks and drainage installation. Design models were input into the machine software to enable the operator to dig to the desired line and level, with the GPS providing an accurate guide. This technology also negates the need for an engineer or banksman near the machine, making the operation safer too.

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Additional safety technology introduced to the project included zonal working software called ‘safety shield’. This enables equipment to be programmed with the required safety parameters. It warns the operator should anyone enter the exclusion zone that has been established. A short video is recorded to show the person entering the exclusion zone, and this helps to reflect trends, allowing the team to monitor behaviours and further minimise the risk of site accidents.

In addition to the EA construction works, since June 2023, CR Civil Engineering has contributed to early preparatory ground investigation and earthworks. Work was also undertaken at this early stage to widen verge areas to facilitate the extra space required by the EAs and to install new drainage pipelines and chambers, as well as new curb drains.

Works are expected to be completed on these particular M1 schemes by the end of September 2024, with the wider NEAR programme to be delivered by the end of March 2025.

Our Project Manager, Marc Owen added:

Once finished, the additional EAs created on this section of the M1 will help instil further confidence for road users, as well as provide dedicated safe places to stop in an emergency. CR Civil Engineering has been involved in the NEAR project since the early stages, and we have drawn extensively on our existing knowledge of building EAs as part of our contribution. The team has significant experience having already constructed several EAs in the region under the National Highways Area 12 (Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire) Scheme Delivery Framework contract. The new designs have both challenged us and inspired an innovative and collaborative approach as part of SMP Alliance, which is exciting to be a part of. Our team has enjoyed the opportunity to work together with others on the project to maximise everyone’s strengths and skill sets to carry out the job safely and on time. Once constructed, all the areas will make a huge difference to road users on the strategic road network. It’s something to be proud of.”

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Dale Flower, SMP Alliance’s Assembly Lead with on-site assembly partner Costain, added:

National Highways is currently delivering £900 million of safety enhancements across the strategic road network, including adding an extra 150 emergency areas. The alliance, its member organisations and supplier partners, such as CR Civil Engineering, are playing a vital role in delivering these works safely, efficiently and more sustainably.

To help make the operations as efficient as possible, innovative GPS technology is being used on the excavators carrying out the earthworks and drainage installation. Design models were inputted into the machine software to allow the operator to dig to the desired line and level with the GPS providing an accurate guide. This technology also negates the need for an engineer or banksman near the machine making the operation safer too.