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building materials reuse

Buildings account for at least 39% of energy-related global carbon emissions annually, and a significant portion of these emissions result from embodied carbon associated with building materials and construction. It has become evident that a change in the way we plan and manage our built environment is crucial to addressing climate change and sustainability challenges.

Forward-thinking businesses are embracing circularity in construction and building as a strategic approach to reduce their dependence on scarce raw materials and minimize waste generation.

Let’s take a closer look at construction circularity and the many benefits it offers both businesses and the environment.

What Is Construction Circularity?

Circularity in construction is a circular economy approach that focuses on reusing, recycling, and renewing construction materials and resources throughout a building's life cycle. It creates a closed-loop system where waste is minimized and materials are continually reintegrated into the construction process.

The construction circularity movement has emerged as a means for the construction industry to engage in more sustainable and resource-efficient practices.

For more in-depth discussion on this topic make sure to join our webinar on Building Materials Circularity from our Global Remediation Working Group on September 7, Register Here!

What Are the Fundamental Principles of Construction Circularity?

These guiding principles of construction circularity help those in both the demolition and construction sectors maintain a closed loop.

  • Design for deconstruction: Buildings are designed with the idea that they will be disassembled or deconstructed in the future. This means using modular and easily separable components in new real estate.
  • Mindful demolition: Instead of disposing of building materials as waste, efforts are made to salvage and reuse them in new construction projects.
  • Resource efficiency: Construction circularity encourages using fewer resources and choosing materials with a lower environmental impact, such as green building materials. This reduces the need for raw materials and lowers energy consumption and overall waste generation.
  • Extended lifespan: Buildings are constructed to be durable and long-lasting, minimizing the need for frequent replacements and renovations.
  • Circular business models: This strategy involves adopting business models that support the recovery and reuse of building materials. It may include rental, leasing, or buyback arrangements for certain materials.

Construction Circularity in Action

Let’s take a look at how construction circularity works with one of the world’s most commonly used and recycled synthetic materials: concrete.

Responsible material sourcing

In the first stage, sustainable practices are applied when sourcing concrete for construction. Alternative cementitious materials, such as fly ash or slag – the byproducts of other industrial processes – can be used, reducing the demand for raw materials.

Mindful demolition

At the end of the building's life cycle, the structure is carefully dismantled and concrete is salvaged for reuse or recycling. The concrete is crushed into aggregate.

Design for disassembly

During the design phase of a new building, architects and engineers implement strategies for easy disassembly. Modular construction techniques are adopted, allowing for individual components, including concrete elements, to be easily separated and reused in future projects.

Material reuse

The recycled concrete aggregate from the previous demolition is incorporated into the new construction project, extending its life and reducing the embodied carbon footprint of the building.

End-of-life recycling

When this new structure reaches the end of its life, any remaining concrete is carefully dismantled and sent for recycling. The recycled concrete is then used again in the construction of new buildings, completing the circularity loop.

Benefits of Construction Circularity

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Manufacturing new building materials has a significant carbon footprint. Adopting circularity in construction and reusing materials can substantially mitigate these negative environmental impacts.
  • Improved ESG performance. Embracing material reuse not only helps combat climate change but also aligns with your environmental, social, and governance-related sustainability goals, showcasing your commitment to a greener and more environmentally responsible business.
  • Conservation of raw materials. The extraction of raw materials puts immense strain on natural resources and ecosystems, leading to habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. Circular practices minimize the demand for virgin materials, promoting sustainable resource management and reducing the environmental footprint of your projects.
  • Decrease overall waste generation. The construction industry generates an astonishing amount of waste, contributing significantly to environmental impact. Adopting sustainable strategies contributes to a greener and more efficient construction process.
  • Reduce hazardous materials in the environment. Proper demolition techniques and material reuse play a vital role in minimizing the release of hazardous substances into the environment.
  • Avoid fines and fees for improper disposal. Improper waste disposal can lead to severe legal and financial repercussions for businesses. However, by implementing mindful demolition and material reuse, you can steer clear of these penalties.

A Winning Strategy for Sustainable Building Practices

With decreased reliance on costly new materials and reduced waste disposal expenses, companies can achieve greater operational efficiency and bolster their bottom line. Embracing circularity in construction through mindful demolition and thoughtful design not only contributes to a more sustainable future but also provides tangible benefits for businesses.


FAQs on Construction Circularity:

Question: How do regulatory frameworks and policies around the world impact the adoption and implementation of circularity principles in the construction industry? Are there any specific challenges or barriers that companies face in different regions?

Answer: Regulatory frameworks and policies play a significant role in shaping the adoption of circularity principles in the construction industry globally. However, the specific impact varies depending on the region and the stringency of regulations. Understanding the local challenges or barriers associated with regulatory compliance in different parts of the world can provide valuable insights into the practical implementation of circular practices.

Question: While the benefits of circularity in construction are highlighted in the article, what are some potential drawbacks or limitations associated with implementing circular practices, particularly in terms of cost, scalability, or technological feasibility? How can companies address these challenges effectively to ensure the widespread adoption of circularity principles across the industry?

Answer: While the benefits of circularity in construction are evident, there could also be some challenges. These could include increased costs, technological barriers, or scalability issues. Addressing these concerns requires a nuanced understanding of the complexities involved in transitioning to circular practices. 


You can view more on the Benefits of Green Building in this previous blog.

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