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Photo of Dr Raffaele Vinai

Dr Raffaele Vinai

Lecturer in Civil Engineering


Telephone: 01392 723627

Extension: (Streatham) 3627

Raffaele graduated from the Turin Institute for Technology (Politecnico di Torino – Italy) in 2002 (MSc in Environmental and Land Engineering) and obtained a PhD in Geo-Environmental Engineering in 2006 from the same institution, spending 6 months as Academic visitor at the University of Oxford (UK). After a professional experience as project coordinator and area manager in East Africa with a Non-Governmental Organization (2006 – 2009), he returned to Academia as lecturer at the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Burkina Faso (2010 – 2011), as Head of the Education and Research Unit of Infrastructures and Material Science and Coordinator of Eco-Building Material Laboratory. After a collaboration with the Turin Institute for Technology (Politecnico di Torino – Italy) in 2012 – 2013, he worked at the Queen’s University of Belfast (2013 to 2017) as Research Fellow, being involved in several projects focussed on the development of sustainable concrete made with recycled waste materials, geopolymer concrete, alkali activated binders and recycled aggregates. He joined the University of Exeter in January 2018. He is an author or co-author of more than 60 scientific publications. His research interests include sustainable construction materials, waste recycling, geo-materials.

Low carbon building materials

Waste and co-products management is a pressing issue, as well as the need for low cost, low carbon, safe and locally available building materials with improved thermal insulation properties.

The 2008 Climate Change Act declares a target reduction of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050. The built environment is responsible for some 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. Energy consumption, and associated greenhouse gas emissions, is derived from whole life cycle, including manufacture of products, construction, maintenance and disassembly (e.g. embodied energy) as well as operational energy during building’s use. Building sector is therefore a key player in the global emission reduction.


Recent research projects:

A £18k funding from the GW4 alliance has been secured by Dr Vinai and Dr Eames for the set-up of the research community “Circular economy for affordable, low-carbon secondary raw materials” in partnership with Universities of Bath, Bristol and Cardiff.

Dr Vinai recently obtained a £48k grant from EPSRC Early Career Researcher Capital Fund 2019 for the procurement of an environmental chamber for controlling moisture, temperature, CO2 content for conditioning and testing, and a mercury intrusion porosimeter (MIP) for assessing the porosity, bulk and apparent density, particle size and pore related properties of developed materials.

The NERC GW4+ DTP NPIF is currently funding a PhD studentship for the project “Development of bio-based, low carbon and low cost building materials with improved thermal and acoustic properties – harvesting the potential of vegetal fibres”, under the supervision of Dr Vinai.

Dr Vinai is colalborating with ARC Marine ltd (UK) through the Open Innovation Platform funding led by the Innovation, Impact and Business (IIB) team at the University of Exeter. A funding of £15k has been allocated for the investigation of low carbon concrete for marine applications.  


Past research projects:

2013 – 2017:    

  • Co-Investigator in “RE4 -  REuse and REcycling of CDW materials and structures in energy efficient pREfabricated elements for building REfurbishment and construction” project, funded from the European Union H2020 programme, 13 partners consisting on 5 RTD performers and 8 Large and Small-Medium Sized Enterprises from 8 different countries.
  • Research Fellow in RESCIND “Recovery and use of cement kiln dust as the alkali activator for geopolymeric (cementless) concrete building blocks” project, funded by Innovate UK/EPSRC, 3 industrial partners.
  • Academic support in “Innovative low carbon geopolymer concrete using 100% recycled material”, Knowledge Transfer Partnership, (KTP), Virtus Ltd.
  • Research Fellow in SUS-CON “Sustainable, Innovative and Energy-Efficient Concrete, based on the Integration of All-Waste Materials” project, funded from the European Union Seventh Framework, 14 partners consisting on 5 RTD performers and 9 Large and Small-Medium Sized Enterprises from 10 different countries.

2012 – 2013:

  • PDRA in a consultancy on “Turin Metro line 1 extension: geotechnical characterisation of soil for mechanised excavation”.
  • PDRA in a consultancy for Italcementi CGT – CCB on “Disposal of clay and silty sand materials within the basin of Gaurain: technical, environmental, geotechnical and design issues”.
  • PDRA in a research contract with Italcementi CGT – CCB: “Study on water management for quarry activities on Gaurain and Barry sites”.
  • PDRA in a research contract with Spea Ingegneria Europea building contractor on “Geotechnical characterisation, treatment and stabilisation of spoil materials from Sparvo tunnel excavation”.

2010 – 2011:   

  • Principal Investigator on a research contract with Niger Coal Society (Société Nigérienne de Charbon – SONICHAR) on Coal Combustion Residues valorisation for unfired brick production.
  • Team member in PSRDO-CER (Projet Stratégie de Reduction des Déchets de Ouagadougou) project for waste management and valorisation in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), funded by European Commission.
  • Principal Investigator on a project co-financed by UEMOA (The West African Economic and Monetary Union) under the research action PAES: “Technical characterisation of Laterite Dressed Stones”.
  • Working group member for the SPOD Project (Sustainable Building Policies in Developing Countries) funded by UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme).

2002 – 2006:

  • Research Assistant in the project “Mechanised Tunnelling”, funded by Italian Ministry of Research and University.
  • Research Assistant in a consultancy for Mapei S.p.A. on “Soil conditioning investigation for metro tunnel in Brescia and for railway tunnel in Castellanza”.


Raffaele is interested in supervising PhD students with topics on alternative building materials, durability of concrete and other building materials, waste recycling and circular economy for building sector.