The Circular Economy and The Construction Industry
What is the circular economy?
The circular economy is an economic model where waste is eliminated from our society, and resources are put back into the economy recirculating materials. A circular economy turns goods that are at the end of their lifespan into resources, this is referred to as closing the loop in industrial ecosystems. The process of extending a products/materials life is known as Cradle to Cradle which means designing products which don’t enter the waste stream; thus, the product can be fully recycled and reimagined.
How does the circular economy effect the construction industry?
The construction sector is the most resource intensive sector of the economy, accounting for over a half of extracted materials and around one third of total waste generated. The replacements of building materials and components take place during fit-out, which is the process of installing interior fittings, fixtures, and finishes. This process occurs more often in domestic buildings and is mainly responsible for the waste generation. Additionally, the replacement of materials tends to be shorter than the lifespan of a material. The main reasons why these materials could not be reused was due to the lack of size
standardisation and lack of modularity of components.
How the construction industry can adopt the key ideas of the circular economy
The core concepts of how the construction industry can adopt the principles of the circular economy is it extending the life cycle of materials and products to keep them out of the waste stream.
The core features of a circular economy for construction focus around 4 key pillars.
The reduction of building complexity. This means limiting the number of building components and types, instead favouring modularity and lightness for components, focusing on simple and easy connections between structural and non-structural elements. By using fewer and smaller and larger elements allows for efficient construction and deconstruction, reducing the need for a high range of tools as well as reducing the installation time.
Smart choice of materials and building components. This is achieved by utilizing reusable and eco-complaint materials, this will extend the lifecycle of a material as it can be repurposed and reused. Examples of reusable materials are wood, steel members, brick, and carpet tiles.
Access to the information regarding building construction and deconstruction methods which will allow for the best wats to reuse and recycle the deconstructed building components.
Define the deconstruction method across the entire planning process including deconstruction as well as the deconstruction principles at every lifecycle stage, ensure that each component is reused.
Through implementing these principles, it will allow for a building to follow a closed cycle that reuses materials and reduces their environmental impact.