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Circular building design

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New research shows the potential of circular construction

Recycling is good for the climate, but how much CO2 do we save by using recycled materials instead of newly produced ones? New research made by the Danish Technological Institute clarifies the potential of building circular, with Danish solutions acting as a source of inspiration.
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29 November 2022

Historically, the building sector has in many ways had a substantial climate footprint. Construction of buildings accounts for 40% of material consumption and 40% of energy consumption in the EU, as well as 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

One way to fix this is to adopt a circular approach to constructing buildings, where reusing materials in several links of the construction value chain can help reduce the climate impact and waste production.

The Circular Builders project

The Circular Builders project, involves nine Danish and Swedish municipalities, which have developed and tested solutions for circular construction in order to reduce energy consumption throughout the construction value chain.

Through 19 concrete cases, the municipalities have worked with both circular requirements in tenders, circular principles in plans, strategies and policies and engaged in dialogue with market and civil society actors to develop the market for circular building solutions.

New project shines light on the effects of reusing materials

Through the “Circular Builders”-project, the Danish Technological Institute has mapped the climate effect of 119 chosen initiatives in nine Danish and Swedish municipalities. The purpose of the project is to inspire to think more circular in construction strategies.

As part of the project, the municipalities have developed and tested circular construction solutions to reduce CO2 emissions throughout the full value chain. The solutions have been measured through the construction of new buildings, renovations, and demolitions, but also through initiatives at recycling stations, which can support more circular handling of construction waste and building materials.

Results show that there are large potentials for climate reduction to be found in some initiatives, while others have more limited effects. For example, reusing paint provides an easy and effective way to save both money and carbon emissions, while elements such as reused windows, marble, natural stone, metal and steel products save up to 99% CO2 compared to using conventional materials.

And although it is possible to save CO2 by recycling concrete, brick and natural stone, other factors also play a role in the use of heavy materials. Particularly transport of materials can mean that recycling materials are ultimately a bad solution in terms of the climate.

With the results of the project, the aim is that municipalities and other public actors can push the market in a more circular direction.

Danish solutions provide good examples of building circular

Circular business models can prove to be a sound business strategy, which can facilitate access to new markets, drive innovative solutions and saves production costs.

In Denmark, several solution providers present inspiring examples of how to adopt a circular approach to building – either by reusing materials, recycling or reducing waste.

For example, The Swan childcare centre in Gladsaxe, led by the architecture firm Lendager, is the first building to be awarded the Nordic Swan EcoLabel due to its circular construction principles. The building has been built on top of an old school reusing many of the same materials.

Read more: A Swan takes shape

Another example is The Circle House; Denmark’s first circular social housing project. Led by 3XN Architects, the house is seen as a blueprint for circular construction, with 90% of its building material able to be demounted and reused or sold without a loss of value.

Read more: Denmark’s first circular social housing project

Last but not least, Ramboll and Henning Larsen Architects is to build the largest timber structure to date: The Marble Pier. Expected to be completed by 2024 in Copenhagen, the building will save tonnes of carbon emission compared to similar buildings made of concrete.

Read more: The Marble Pier

Circular construction

The construction sector holds one of the greatest potentials for a circular transition and represents an enormous potential for reducing waste and increasing recycling and reuse.

Explore Danish Solution providers and learn more on how they have created opportunities within circular construction.

Exlore circular construction solutions

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Buildings
Circular building design
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Circular construction
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