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Copenhagen launches circular economy decision-making network

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

On August 12th the first of four annual meetings with selected stakeholders across the Danish building industry was hosted by GXN & The City of Copenhagen. The main aim of the meeting was to gather key stakeholders from the industry in a closed forum to discuss the transition to a circular economy building industry.

The Mayor of Technology and Environment of Copenhagen, Ninna Hedeager Olsen started the event with opening remarks, followed by a lecture by Kasper Guldager, Founder and Partner of GXN, finally Camilla van Deurs, City Architect of Copenhagen shared her visions for the future of construction in the City of Copenhagen saying;

“This is a great opportunity to gather and share knowledge and experiences across the industry and discuss how we can accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the construction sector - from practice to policy level.”

Camilla van Deurs, City architect Copenhagen

Bringing together the industry to discuss the opportunities and challenges that a transition to a circular construction industry present is a key objective of the CIRCuIT project. Similar forums have been established in each of the four partner cities and regions. And in October selected representatives from each city and region will be brought together on “neutral ground” in Amsterdam with the aim of facilitating knowledge sharing across cities.

Following the opening speeches, participants were asked to share their top-of-mind challenges and potential opportunities on the following topics:

  1. Efficient and sustainable use of resources

  2. New construction that eliminates future waste

  3. Waste management in the most sustainable way

They were asked which formats, standards, stakeholders, regulations, etc. are necessary to enable the industry to transition to circular economy practices. That led to the identification of local challenges that will be grouped into five main themes which CIRCuIT partners will work on going forward.

Copenhagen’s five main themes for accelerating the transition to a circular construction industry

1. Increase incentive for circularity

There needs to be a lot more incentives for key actors to make sustainable choices. This can happen at tender level where, for example, a good track record in minimizing waste, or other measurable criteria for circularity, can be rewarded. Financial incentives can be established through measures such as VAT exemption in developments that recycle existing structures.

2. Better standards, facts, knowledge

There is a need to form a basis of knowledge, facts, and standards to inform decision-making processes. Evidence must be created for the rationale of circular solutions in construction, which will also help to dispel any myths about circular solutions being too costly etc.

3. Qualification of circularity in construction

Circular economy practices in the industry need to be qualified to ensure they have significant impact on making construction more sustainable; for example by requiring third-party value engineering to demonstrate the avoided material “waste" which is often caused by specifying oversized dimensions of structures. Another initiative could be a supervisory unit with the goal of incorporating circularity in construction at every stage from design to end of life.

4. Requirements, laws, and regulations

Stronger and clearer rules and regulations on circular practices in the industry need to be established. Building regulations in particular are essential for the transition to circular economy practices. Requirements for targets on CO2 eq./m2, the degree of recycling or maximum waste limits for example will form clear guidelines that will drive the transition.

5. Circular business models in construction

The transition to a circular construction industry cannot happen without the development of new business models. Businesses or strategic collaborations with a focus on optimizing the utilization of resources in construction - or across other industries - are especially key. Initiatives such as material exchanges need to be established and developed.

The next forum in Copenhagen is planned to be hosted in August 2021.

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