Increased recyclability and reuse through circular construction

The challenge
With global population growth set to continue its rapid development, the need for housing in cities worldwide will similarly expand. Currently, construction and demolition waste accounts for close to one third of all waste in the European Union, and with the sector expected to grow worldwide in response to increasing housing needs, there is an urgent need for rethinking the way we design and construct buildings.

The future
Current traditions within the construction sector limit the recyclability of materials due to the widespread use of binding materials that are difficult to take apart without damaging the construction elements. Rethinking the design of buildings to become more circular includes that the buildings are designed for disassembly and that strict rules for materials use and registration are applied in order to ease the process of taking apart and reusing components later on.

Explore associated sectors

Cities are currently responsible for around 75 percent of energy related CO₂ emissions, and much of this is due to poorly insulated buildings. Moreover, around 25-30 percent of all waste generated in the EU is construction and demolition waste, including concrete, wood and bricks. Therefore, the construction sector must aim at building energy efficient buildings for our rapidly expanding cities, while keeping in mind material composition and design to ease future reuse and recycling.

Circular construction principles include a careful selection of materials as well as binder to better enable reuse of building components. However, this requires a stronger collaboration across the value chain as different stakeholders must come together to jointly drive the transition towards a more circular economy. Additionally, national, regional, and local governments must lead the way by prioritising circular buildings for public construction in the future. As a majority of the buildings in many major cities around the world are expected to last for many years to come, renovation of existing buildings should be conducted with as much recycling as possible and with an increased focus on implementing circular principles. Finally, more companies must take responsibility, for instance by adhering to voluntary schemes that have created certificates for circular products.

The economic potential is great and so is the potential for conserving our planet’s resources by encouraging recycling and reuse in the construction sector. However, exploiting this potential will also require waste management systems to be in place so that professionals in the construction industry can do their part.

Connect with us: Gry Brostrøm, Senior Project Manager, gbr@stateofgreen.com