Creating a circular economy in construction

We all know about the importance of considering the environment in the work we do, and this is how circular economy principles can be applied to keep our planet in mind. 

In order to do this, there would have to be key systematic changes, from deciding whether to build in the first place, to the way materials are dealt with at the end of their use. Retention and refurbishment are also priorities. 

Some of the ways in which a circular economy can be created in construction include:

  1. Choosing to refurbish over building new – this will save over half the embodied carbon (the emissions associated with pouring concrete, forging steel and extruding aluminium). 
  2. Completing pre-refurbishment/pre-demolition audits – this will help reclaim as much as possible before anything is treated as waste. 
  3. Using reclaimed components – this involves mining the urban environment for components and materials from existing buildings. 
  4. Using biocomposites – using biologically-derived products can actually lock away carbon in the material, making it a carbon sink, thus reducing its impact on the environment. 
  5. Design for the next life – this means reducing the risk of obsolescence and designing to allow components to be reclaimed for use in the future. 

These ideas not only consider sustainability values, but they also slash demand for new materials, especially during current shortages, and create much longer-term solutions rather than short-term fixes. 

The implementation of social value will also have an effect in creating this circular economy for the industry. For example, using technologies such as digital twins, artificial intelligence and virtual reality can monitor these projects to ensure they are efficient and prevent waste. 

Another trend in social value is bringing focus to smaller projects rather than just big projects. These tend to be more inherently sustainable, and provide a positive social impact for the communities surrounding them. 

We are looking forward to seeing how a circular economy will shape up for the construction industry, and the impacts it will have on the environment and communities.