There's no doubt that the world is changing rapidly. The environment has been transformed in recent years, with natural disasters such as floods and bushfires making it feel hopeless all over again for some people - but there are ways businesses can help create meaningful change!  Recycling materials in the construction industry used to be common practice. Two hundred years ago if you knocked a building down much of the stone, bricks, and timber was reused. Today, in the era of steel, concrete, and glass structures, we have gotten into a bad habit of sending almost everything to landfills only 6% of construction materials are reused in an industry responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions. 

What are the principles of the circular economy? 
A key strategy to tackling our overconsumption of resources lies with the circular economy. In a circular economy, waste is designed out of the system, resources are used more efficiently, and high-value materials are re-circulated continuously. 
A circular economy is based on three principles: 
Re-think the way we are doing things by designing for end-of-life. 
Optimise materials and resources by keeping them in use for as long as possible. 
Re-generate natural systems by restoring, renewing, or revitalizing it. 
The shift from taking/make/dispose to designing for reuse has been slow to become the norm in the built environment sector. There are many practical hurdles for construction firms to overcome. 
A Lack of Trust and Guarantee 
Selling already used materials can be very challenging. A lack of confidence in the quality of the products produced reduces demand and inhibits the development of appropriate waste management and recycling/reuse infrastructure. 
The psychological impact also has a biased effect, as modern consumerism values exclusivity and authenticity which undermine the principles of recycling and reuse. 
Designers still lean towards traditional construction approaches which make it difficult to use circular construction. 
Construction products in the EU typically require a CE mark, which is difficult for reused products to achieve. In some countries, it's illegal to use materials that haven't been through the same quality checks as regular products. 
Contractors tend to be relatively risk averse, so they'll stick to the materials and the products they know. If you're asking them to use unknown products, whether new or reused, that often comes with a cost uplift, simply to take on the additional risk. That means you need a client who's got the vision for reuse and is willing to drive it forward and potentially take on more of that risk. 
An Imbalance between Supply and Demand for Material Reuse 
As the reuse market is not well-developed yet, it can be hard to find and sell specific materials that are required to complete projects. Construction and de-construction processes follow a project-specific timeline that sometimes doesn’t align with current reuse material supply or demand. The structures are not fully in place and finding used materials can add man hours to a project. 
Lack of Clear Framework and Guidance 
As every new concept is bought forward and new ideas are put into action it takes time for the government and policymakers to catch up. The current policies and legislations are written for a linear construction economy. The government can act as a market player to stimulate the circular construction economy and steps are starting to be seen with London’s Circular Economy Statement and London Plan but more needs to be completed from the top to encourage through the law, risk reduction, tax levies and governance. 
Technical Requirements and Lack of Technology to Support Circular Methods 
Buildings are traditionally built on a complex mixture of materials that are often very difficult to segregate – this makes these materials very difficult to reuse and recycle. 
Hazardous chemicals can also be an issue when it comes to reusing and recycling materials from existing buildings – including those that are not permitted in building materials today. 
Materials of existing buildings are not designed with end of use in mind, therefore the lack of technical information available to determine the quality and safety of the materials would be a barrier for these materials to be reused. 
Technical skills and requirements – currently the education of skills from design right through to labourers would need to change. Consideration of the demolition at end of life would be completed differently and not to current methods. Additional training would be required on all levels to ensure that the right skills approach was taken for materials to be recycled and reused. 
The UK government wants to eliminate all avoidable waste in England by 2050. The government's strategy is to promote refurbishment over demolition, cutting the amount of soil that goes to landfill, and designing buildings with end of life in mind. It estimates that 3.3m tonnes of CO2 could be saved each year by reusing construction materials currently treated as waste. 
So, what are the Benefits for the Construction industry: 
Building Market volumes and Profit Margins 
This type of ecosystem has the potential to transform the construction industry. According to a recent report by Roland Berger, the construction sector could grow by up to 30% per year if it adopts a circular business model. This would be a significant increase from the current growth rate of 2-3%. However, not all business models within the construction industry will benefit equally from this transition. For example, businesses that rely on renewable and recycled materials will be better positioned to take advantage of the new circular economy ecosystem. This is because these materials will have a larger market share within the circular economy. As such, businesses should carefully consider how the transition to a circular economy will impact their operations. 
The next decade is set to be a pivotal one for businesses operating under the traditional linear model of take-make-waste. Increasing awareness of the need to move towards a more sustainable circular economy is resulting in the rapid adoption of digital technology in order to enable new and innovative business models. According to Roland Berger's report, those in the planning and design phase are expected to show a 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2020 and 2025. Similarly, models linked to operations are forecast to grow by 13% globally and 18% in the European Union across the same timeframe. Largely undeveloped at present, the end-of-life phase is predicted to show the largest CAGR over the next five years, as businesses increasingly recognise the value in extending the life of their products and materials. Digital technology plays an ever-greater role in driving this transition, as the circular economy grows so too will the profit margins within each business model. It is clear that those organisations who embrace it will be well placed to reap the rewards. 
To embrace a more circular business model, construction companies must consider the following six success factors: 
Business Adaptation 
Construction businesses have traditionally been working to a linear model and now is the time to rethink the entire supply chain. A circular construction economy can only be looked to be adopted when all suppliers and stakeholders prioritise circularity over linear approaches. 
An Australian company PRECYCLE has developed a 6-stage process to minimise general construction site waste. Their process integrates reusing and recycling practices whilst increasing overall site safety. 
Design for Deconstruction 
Designing a building with the end in mind and planning for disassembly and reuse rather than demolition. Consider the entire lifespan of the project by analysing material and energy flow and optimising efficiencies. Architects and designers plan buildings from the outset with a view that they will be deconstructed at their initial application’s end of life. 
Embrace New Technology 
New technology and R&D are a key part of ensuring that the circular construction economy succeeds. This will include Material Passports, changes and developments in BIM modelling, and new asset-sharing platforms. These new enablers will be key to review and if relevant embrace enabling businesses to grow and adapt to changes within their market. 
Building a stronger ecosystem 
As the circular economy model becomes more popular, more research, experiments and success/failure stories will be produced. Sharing experiences will enable the construction industry to evolve the circular economy ecosystem more quickly. Collaboration across the supply chain is an effective method of enhancing knowledge and engaging stakeholders. 
Develop a business model planning process. 
A rigorous approach is vital to excelling in this field. It is important to Identify the best circular economy practices and consider relative indicators such as the Recycling Ratio, Recycled Content, Waste Generated, Return on Investment and others. However, the circular economy is still developing and lacks official indicators and standards for quantifying impact. Developing indicators specific to the built environment would help identify value for businesses. 
Expand and Scale 
Change is coming within the construction industry and whether a business wants to be at the forefront is all about taking the actions necessary now. This means it is vital to ensure that you scale newly acquired skills across the organisation, leverage new business models and seize new opportunities. The businesses that do this will grow as the circular construction economy begins to take off. 
The circular economy is an important step in the right direction for sustainable development. It encourages waste reduction and aims to create a closed-loop system where all by-products of production are reused or recycled. Although there is still some way to go before this becomes the norm in the construction industry, increasing technological capability and community focus on sustainability will undoubtedly result in more widespread adoption of circular economy principles in the near future. 
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing construction companies when it comes to a circular economy? 
If you would like to discuss your a project with our team, contact us on Tel: 01928 240 408 or email us at 
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