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Transitioning to a circular economy is necessary in solving for issues of overconsumption, waste production, and ever-increasing embedded emissions. However, despite the need for circularity, there is still confusion across all sectors, especially in construction of the meaning of circularity and the pathways to achieve such a goal. Therefore, this report by Built aims to address the gaps in knowledge by providing a practical guide for moving towards a circular economy in the built environment.
Where can we start? Firstly, development should focus on creating value. Secondly, usage and reuse should focus on preventing loss of value.
This report also outlines 4 circular principles necessary to transform the construction industry from one defined by wastage to one supporting virgin resource conservation.
- Design for disassembly.
Designing for disassembly makes buildings easier to repair, refurbish, and reconfigure. Buildings under this principal function as banks that store products and materials that retain value and return to productive use at the end of each discrete life.
- Building materials as a service.
Building materials are provided as a service rather than one-time sale. This prevents products from being discarded into landfill. As this model necessitates suppliers be responsible for providing and maintaining their products. Economically speaking this benefits both suppliers and consumers respectively as it offers a long-term source of income and a reduced up-front cost for high-quality products.
- Adaptive reuse.
Waste can be significantly reduced if construction companies utilise as much of the existing structure in a new development. As seen with the construction of Quay Quarter Tower in Sydney the structure retained more than 66% of its existing columns, beams, and slabs, and 95% of its existing internal walls.
- Waste as a resource.
In Australia, 40% of overall waste comes from construction and demolition. Much of that waste can be reduced by recycling and refurbishing materials. Boral, a major construction materials supplier, has achieved over 98% recycling rate by recycling 900 tonnes of concrete waste that was then sold to consumers.
The report goes on to further list the actions towards circularity that include but are not limited to designing products differently and minimising value destruction.