On Tuesday 2 March 2021, CIRCuIT partners and REPLACE, an EU-funded project focused on reducing energy consumption, joined forces to discuss circular economy progress in Hamburg and raise awareness of the benefits it can bring.
Keynote speaker, Ana Julia Kuschmierz, City of Hamburg Senate Chancellery’s CIRCuIT project manager, kick-started the virtual event by introducing the current state of progress towards a circular economy in Hamburg. Compared to other industries in the city, the construction industry produces the most waste, but she was keen to stress the value that Hamburg and the Senate Chancellery place on circular economy practices. Mirko Kruse from the Hamburg Institute of International Economics followed with an introduction to the circularity-focused EU project, REPLACE - a project that aims to boost efforts and support people in nine different countries to replace their old heating systems with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
These presentations were then used as input to a number of interesting discussions amongst participants around where the current gaps and future potential for improvement lie within the circular construction industry.
Conversations highlighted areas where further work is needed – such as around transformation and upcycling demolition materials. Concrete, for example, makes up a large proportion of the material used in the streets of Hamburg and its infrastructure and could be captured from demolition sites and reused within new buildings. Although there are some helpful legal regulations in place (such as the Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act), additional circular economy pilots and practices are needed to make a real impact on th
e uptake of circular construction approaches. But all those involved in the debate were in agreement that more education is needed for stakeholders in the built environment – architects, developers, builders and engineers – on the existing rules and regulations around the use of circular materials in building projects, for example in the areas of safety, warranty, and insurance.
Other barriers to uptake of circular approaches highlighted during the debate included how difficult it can be to justify the extra time and costs it takes to test and certify recycled and/or recovered materials such as concrete.
It is evident that the industry needs more collaboration and that a platform that brings relevant built environment actors together, fostering synergies and allowing expertise and experiences to be shared would be invaluable. This is an encouraging endorsement for the work that CIRCuIT are currently undertaking on a Circularity Hub.