New CIRCuIT report explores barriers and opportunities for circular economy in urban planning policy

Updated: Jun 25


City governments can engage, incentivise, manage, and set a regulatory framework to set the enabling conditions for cities fit for the 21st century to emerge. They can set a direction of travel. By embedding circular economy principles into urban policy levers, cities can bring about changes to the use and management of materials in cities.


The most recent publication from the CIRCuIT project explores the possibilities the four CIRCuIT city administrations – Copenhagen, Hamburg, Helsinki region and London – have for including requirements for circular economy and construction in their urban planning policy instruments and procedures. The publication identifies a wide range of potential legislative, fiscal and communication policies to promote the reuse and recycling of building products and materials, adaptive reuse and refurbishment, and design for disassembly.


The research found that while there were many potential options for encouraging circular economy through planning requirements and the building regulations and codes, the autonomy each city had in applying these to their locality was limited by the national frameworks. Despite these differences in the levels of autonomy, there are some interventions which look promising across the cities, which include:

  • requiring pre-demolition audits,

  • making this pre-demolition audit data publicly available and

  • setting requirements either around the reuse and recycling of waste or the incorporation of recycled or reclaimed components into new constructions.

It was also identified that city municipalities have many options to add interventions without using legislative or regulatory instruments. Publishing an overarching vision promoting circular construction approaches can already start to stimulate the market to deliver solutions aligned to this vision and provides the opportunity for municipalities to encourage private developments to help.


Public procurement for municipality buildings and for the competitive tendering for construction on municipal land also give municipalities the opportunity to implement their vision and pioneer new circular solutions to inspire private developers.


“We hope that other cities will find this collation of potential policy options useful as they explore how to encourage circular construction.”

Andrea Charlson, Senior Advisor at ReLondon and coordinator of CIRCuIT’s London cluster.


The next steps are for the four cities to use the findings of this study to support the adoption of further policies relating to circular construction, whether that is at a national, city or municipal level.


Subsequent CIRCuIT activities will help provide the evidence base for the potential impact of these policies and will develop the materials to support the implementation of some on the non-legislative or regulatory interventions such as public procurement criteria and voluntary agreements with developers.


Download the full report below.


D7-1 Circular economy in urban planning_
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Download • 649KB

This deliverable has been submitted and is waiting for final approval from the European Commission.

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