A comprehensive guidance document to promote the practical application of circular economy principles on construction projects has been published by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC).
The detailed information in the Circular economy guidance for construction clients is designed to enable client organisations to include more ambitious circular design and construction best practices in project briefs for non-domestic projects.
“The guidance aims to ensure that the construction supply chain can effectively deliver circular economy goals and that budget, project management, and timescale risks are all minimised and mitigated,” said Anna Surgenor, UKGBC’s Senior Sustainability Advisor.
The document, produced through extensive consultation with and input from UKGBC’s membership and industry stakeholders, identifies and addresses the common commercial obstacles that clients may encounter, while providing practical support and evidence in the form of the business case to assist in setting clear circular objectives.
“UKGBC set out to present the commercial rationale for the adoption of non-traditional, non-linear approaches, and we feel that the industry can no longer ignore the business case in support of circular principles, said Ms Surgenor.
The report points out that in 2014, 120 million tonnes of waste was generated from construction, demolition and excavation – equivalent to 59% of total UK waste. In 2015, the UK economy used 576 million tonnes of materials, and as far back as 1998 construction accounted for roughly half of national material consumption.
While most construction waste is now diverted from landfill, little is being recycled or reused, and the quantity of reused materials in construction has actually decreased since 1998. At the same time, the rates of extraction of materials in our fast-developing world are already way beyond planetary capacity.
The circular economy – one that operates through ‘designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems’ – is fast rising up the business and political agenda. Research suggests that by increasing resource productivity, a circular economy could add €0.6 trillion to the EU economy by 2030.
However, few construction clients are yet specifying zero waste in their procurement tenders or project briefs. Despite recent growth rates, offsite manufacturing – which can result in significant waste reductions on site – still represents a very small proportion of the market. That is partly because it is a challenge to convert the circular economy from a neat theory into replicable practice.
The guide seeks to provide much-needed practical guidance for construction clients who are seeking to increase resource efficiency and reduce waste in their projects through the adoption of circular economy principles.