WHAT IS CIRCULAR CONSTRUCTION?
"The construction and demolition of buildings account for around one-third of global material consumption and waste." - Ellen Macarthur Foundation
We are extracting and dumping resources at an unsustainable rate, and with global construction output projected to grow 85% by 2030, there is an urgent need for the construction sector to transition from a linear into a circular economy.
The linear economy in construction follows a "take-make-waste" model wherein we extract raw materials for construction and once used, buildings are demolished and materials are often discarded or downcycled.
Linear economy in construction
A circular economy is an alternative model in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. Circular construction therefore aims to close building material loops by reusing, sharing, leasing, repairing, refurbishing, upcycling or recycling rather than continuing the traditional take-make-consume-dispose process. It is about considering how to maximise the lifespan and reusability of entire buildings or materials at the very start of the design process.
Circular economy in construction
By adopting the circular economy, the construction industry can significantly reduce the amount of virgin materials needed and waste generated. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation have forecast that a circular scenario could reduce global CO2 emissions from materials used in the built environment approximately 38% by 2.0Gt in 2050.
Many techniques, tools and approaches related to circular construction have been developed and tested around Europe. These have served as great showcases for individual circular projects in the built environment, but circular techniques are yet to be demonstrated effectively at a city or regional level with policy and planning impacts considered as part of the vital building blocks for facilitating systemic change.
Cities hold the key to this transition to a resource and material efficient and regenerative society. As public authorities they must seek collaboration with industry in order to find new ways of confronting the growing scarcity of materials and building a new urban agenda on circular economy.