An international construction consultancy is calling for the principles of the circular economy to be embedded in London’s built environment to drastically reduce carbon emissions and waste.
A mountain of construction waste – over 13.8m tonnes – worth £1.25bn could be saved over the next decade, says Mace, if the London was made the ‘circular construction capital of the world’. This is turn would save 11m tonnes of CO2 over the same period, equivalent to 3.5% of the Uks annual emissions.
Mace makes its case in its latest report – Closing the Circle – that sets out to examine what it sees as the true potential of reusing and recycling construction materials – instead of allowing it to go to waste.
Despite making significant changes to construction practices to reduce carbon emissions across the sector, the construction industry globally still accounts for 40% of carbon emissions and over 50% of raw material use, the report says.
With global cities responsible for the vast majority of construction waste, the report focuses on the opportunity for London – and specifically for the City of London. There, in the decade to 2021, construction and demolition activities generated 1.54m tonnes of identifiable waste.
The report claims that the UK capital is the ideal place to build the world’s first true circular construction economy due to its highly innovative construction firms, developers and occupiers with a keen interest in sustainability, and with planning authorities already promoting circularity practices.
James Low, global head of responsible business at Mace, said: “We must be able to deliver zero embodied carbon buildings and infrastructure within our lifetimes, and we believe that the transition to a circular economy is amongst the most important innovations and system changes required to achieve that.
“This requires the entire industry to come together to provide the information, products, construction practices, and behaviours required to realise the potential carbon savings associated with a more circular model in London over the next decade.”
A circular construction economy is one where the use of resources and waste is minimised through ‘reducing, reusing and recycling’ – targeting a reduction in the use of raw materials, and finding new and innovative methods to recycle and directly reuse waste materials where possible.
In a bid to reduce the use of virgin materials used in construction, the report recommends a number of recommendations to put London in a leading position in the global circular construction economy:
- Develop physical and virtual ‘circularity material banks’ that enable smaller companies to take advantage of materials produced elsewhere in the industry
- Introduce ‘materials passports’ that track the source of materials within the supply chain, and enable easier re-use,an approach that digitally catalogues the materials and components used within a building to promote easier reuse at the end of the buildings’ lifespan
- Bring industry and government together to build a credible circularity accreditation scheme to allow clients, investors and contractors to demonstrate the value of their commitment to circularity
Closing the Circle claims that if the currently linear model is successfully transformed into a circular model, then it would be worth over £1.25bn to London’s construction industry over the next 10 years – with more than 13.8m million tonnes of materials and components prevented from going to waste; the equivalent to 11m tonnes of CO2saved.
The report also calls on the regulation of circularity, potentially through a legislative mandate, and to financially incentivise through a reduction in Section 106 requirements where circular practices are adopted.
Ged Simmonds, managing director of commercial offices at Mace Construct, said: “This thought-provoking report clearly illustrates how London can be the circularity capital of the world, a title I am certain all Londoners would be keen for it to hold.
“In the UK capital we have a unique ecosystem where construction companies, planning authorities and building occupiers are all coming together on a global issue. By adopting and mandating circularity across our built environment projects we can make significant and meaningful steps in our shared pursuit of a sustainable world.”
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