Is the construction industry doing enough to be headed into the circular economy ways? Image Credit: Shutterstock

As resilient sustainability becomes the preferred means of development, it is accepted that a circular economy with innovative approaches is the key to a clean, green future. Traditionally, the linear economic approach has worked for development, but also contributed to rising costs, pollution, wastage and is unpredictable in the long-term. The following models are no longer viable:

  • Source-or-take
  • Make-or-build
  • Use-or-dispose

A circular economy, in contrast, envisions a cyclical approach to resource consumption and operations, which is an inherently sustainable strategy. A circular carbon economy is based on the 4Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle and remove – and aimed at reduced greenhouse gas emissions. With circularity, economic growth is no longer dependent on resource consumption.

By exploring and committing to the opportunities created by conservation, recovery, reuse and ultimately recycling, economic growth will become more and more sustainable.

As with other industries, in the building and construction industry as well, many wastage and utilization related issues can be resolved through circular economic principles. Construction usually works on a linear economic model. Globally, it is common practice to dispose of building material, or build at end-of-life, which makes the industry heavily resource-dependent. In the circular economic model, production and consumption is streamlined if these 4 principles are applied:

  • Reusing
  • Repairing
  • Refurbishing
  • Recycling

Innovative and well-designed products build a base for circular economic principles, which in return can boost growth, cut costs, and build resilience, while paving the way to a low-carbon future. Based on these principals, the primary tenets of a circular economic approach are:

  • Change in design thinking, where waste and pollution are reduced or eliminated at the design level itself. In case of construction, the design approach also has to prioritize high-quality, durable, resilient materials and equipment that can prolong the safety and life of the build.
  • Extending life of materials and resources with repair, refurbishing or maintenance to keep them in use for longer.
  • Rethinking the need, when building or creating, assessing the real need by looking at existing assets. In construction, it is important to consider whether an extension to an existing asset will serve the need. Also for new-builds, that are eco-friendly, green building certifications and planning regulations require reporting against circular economy indicators.
  • Multi-purposing can be applied to anything and everything so that redundancy can be avoided.
  • Flexibility and adaptability, when building or creating and also at end-of-life for disassembly, decommissioning or recycling so that the waste doesn’t end up in landfills, or incinerated or released into the environment.