The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) have recently published a guide for how construction companies can integrate circular principles into their projects. The guide conveyed the importance of reusing assets and materials in projects in having a positive environmental and social impact. They recognised Globechain as a company helping the construction industry go circular through its reuse marketplace (p.29).

Why do business practices within the construction industry need to change?

The construction industry produces 120m tonnes of waste each year, which amounts to 59% of all waste in the UK (p.1). This is the result of construction, demolition and excavation processes within this industry which follow a linear ‘take-make-dispose’ system (p.9). This linear system results in virgin resources being extracted from the earth and waste being created, both of which have degrading sustainability impacts.

Global development is resulting in growth of the construction industry, with the UNEP (2016) predicting global extraction of primary resources to triple by 2050 and global waste is estimated to triple by 2100 according to the World Bank (2013). This surge in demand for construction materials is having an impact for business costs with prices increasing by 4.9% from May 2017 to May 2018 (BEIS, 2018).

Why is a circular construction industry important for both society and business?

The current linear system has significant barriers to sustainable development while increasing company costs. The waste in the construction sector is bad for both business and the environment. With the IPCC’s 2018 report highlighting the degrading issues resulting from 1.5°C and 2°C  temperature rises, it is imperative that the construction industry makes steps towards a net-zero carbon economy. 

There is a strong business and economic case for construction companies to incorporate a circular model. Through reusing materials, this decreases the amount of resources being sent to landfill, reducing waste management costs on transport and taxes. It also reduces costs due to there being less of a need to procure raw materials which are increasing in price. Globechain allows all recipients of reused items to collect them for free from the donor which produces significant cost savings in construction. With the circular economy having the potential to add €0.6trn to the EU economy by 2030, this presents a significant business opportunity for companies to evolve their strategy to go circular.

As a sector, construction has a long way to go, but there are some improvements being made. For example, the construction of Resource Rows in Denmark is making a 70% carbon saving through using material from abandoned homes (p.26). The circular model has further environmental benefits through diverting waste from Landfill, as seen by Globechain redistributing 1000 kilos of ceramic and construction items from crossrail to Hackney City Farm School (p.27).

How can the construction industry go circular?

UKGBC have developed a reuse framework for creating a circular strategy within the construction industry. The framework implements a reuse, recover and sharing plan for construction companies to:

  • Work towards the existing asset on the construction site being fully or partially reused for the same or different project
  • Recover materials from the construction site so they can be reused 
  • Recover reusable materials and then share them between construction sites, to enable essential collaboration in this circular model 

This diagram (p.56) provides a guideline of how construction companies can choose to go circular:

Why does the UKGBC think Globechain’s approach to the circular model is important to the construction sector?

UKGBC have recognised Globechain as a company creating a reuse marketplace for unneeded materials within the construction industry. This allows construction companies to implement circular strategic models through connecting it to recipients who need the recovered and reusable items. 

One recent construction project which Globechain was involved with was with The Conduit and ISG, where 73,818kgs were repurposed. This produced cost savings for The Conduit through not having to pay transport costs or taxes for their waste going to landfill. This therefore had an environmental benefit, whilst also having a social impact through saving charities £15,075 and directly supported 828 people. This highlights how construction companies going circular benefits both business and society.

This post was written by guest author, Luke Netherclift, Globechain’s Research Analyst into circular economies and sustainability. Luke is currently studying Global Sustainable Development and Business at Warwick University.

BEIS. 2018. Monthly Statistics of Building Materials and Components:  Commentary June 2018. [online]. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/721779/18-cs7_-_Construction_Building_Materials_-_Commentary_June_2018.pdf. Accessed on 08/07/19.

IPCC. 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.

UNEP. (2016). World Wide Extraction of Materials Triples in Four Decades, Intensifying Climate Change and Air Pollution. [online] Retrieved from: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/worldwide-extraction-materials-triples-four-decades-intensifying. Accessed on: 08/07/19.

The World Bank. (2013). Global Waste on Pace to Triple by 2100. [online] Retrieved from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/10/30/global-waste-on-pace-to-triple. Accessed on: 08/07/19.

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