A sustainable future depends on a fundamental transformation of the built environment, marked by decarbonization, non-toxicity, waste reduction, and a commitment to avoiding the extraction of finite virgin resources.
Currently, the built environment uses half of the extracted materials, is responsible for one-third of global waste, and accounts for approximately 39% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.*Circular Economy in the Built Environment – ARUP.
Adopting a Circular Approach
The built environment has a crucial role in the global economy, creating prosperity, innovation, and growth. It represents 13% of GDP and employing 7% of the world’s working age population.*Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
However, as urbanization and construction activities continue to rise, the sector faces mounting pressure to address its environmental impact. The built environment must embrace a circular approach prioritizing resource efficiency, waste reduction, keeping materials and products in use, and following passive building standards.
The principles of the Circular Economy—Rethink, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, and Recycle—are the essence of this transformation.
“In a circular economy, renewable materials are used where possible, energy is provided from renewable sources, natural systems are preserved and enhanced, and waste and negative impacts are designed out. Materials, products and components are instead managed in loops, maintaining them at their highest possible intrinsic value” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation
How can the built environment transition successfully towards circularity?
In a circular built environment, the principles of a circular economy are integrated into all aspects, creating a regenerative, accessible, and abundant urban system by design. To make the built environment circular, several key aspects need to be considered and implemented:
- Modular Construction: Create buildings with designs that facilitate easy maintenance, repair, and reuse at every stage of their lifecycle. Adopt techniques like modular construction to reduce waste during construction and deconstruction phases.
- Adopting Circular Materials: Building occupants and infrastructure operators are responsible for tracking and returning construction materials (in the quantity and quality received) to suppliers for reuse. Use of looping, non-toxic materials reduces pollution and virgin material consumption.