Circular construction and materials for a sustainable building sector – BUILDUP Article

ARV is a H2020 EU-funded project aiming at creating climate positive circular communities in Europe and increasing the building renovation rate in the continent. The main objective of ARV project is to demonstrate and validate attractive, resilient and affordable solutions that will speed up deep energy renovations and deployment of energy and climate measures in the construction industry. It will provide guidelines and policy frameworks for future energy-efficient, circular, and digital solutions.

Below the article is published on BUILDUP speaks about the importance of circular construction and materials for a sustainable building sector, where the ARV project aiming to create climate-positive circular communities within the sustainable building sector.

 

“The construction industry is one of the largest consumers of energy and raw materials globally. Within the EU, it contributes to nearly 40% of emissions and accounts for almost a third of all waste generated. Only around 40% of construction waste undergoes recycling or reuse during building demolition. Typically, recycled construction materials find application in secondary construction rather than in new building projects. Embracing a circular approach within the building sector holds significant promise for delivering environmental, social, and economic advantages. For this, circular construction necessitates a re-evaluation of building design practices, focusing on reducing embedded carbon, utilising recycled or bio-based materials, designing for material and component reusability, and prolonging building lifespans through better maintenance.

How can circular construction be defined? Circular construction entails the creation, utilisation, and repurposing of buildings, construction elements, products, materials, spaces, and infrastructure, all while minimising the depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution, and negative impacts on ecosystems. Specifically, regarding buildings, a circular structure maximises resource utilisation and minimises waste across its entire lifespan. If a new construction is built, it should be designed for longevity, adaptability, and disassembly. New buildings should be built efficiently and with recycled, renewable, and non-polluting materials. According to the “Circular Buildings and Infrastructure” report by the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ECESP), the main aspects of circular construction include:

  • Design for deconstruction

  • Material reuse and recycling

  • Resource efficiency (e.g. by choosing efficient design that minimise material waste, adopting prefabrication techniques, implementing lean construction practices, etc.)

  • Circular business models

  • Digitalisation and data management that can support better tracking and management of materials and support decision-making.

Recognising the construction sector as one of the eight sectors with the highest circularity potential, the EU Circular Economy Action Plan delineates a series of actions to be undertaken. Additionally, the Waste Framework Directive prioritises construction and demolition waste as a priority. Local and regional authorities wield the potential to steer transformation within the construction sector. In fact, given their management of an extensive array of public buildings and considerable purchasing power, they can significantly influence market conditions.

The importance of the net-zero agenda is widely recognised, however there remains considerable discussion regarding its integration with improvements to the built environment. Strategies such as reducing energy consumption, optimising designs, employing low-carbon materials, and embracing digital technologies all contribute to this goal. Nonetheless, it is imperative to adopt circular economy principles, wherein buildings are conceived to be assembled, utilised, disassembled, and repurposed as necessary. This approach not only aligns with the net-zero agenda but also prioritises waste reduction in building design.

The European Union has committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, aiming for an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Given that Europe’s buildings account for 40% of total energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions, significant efforts have been directed towards enhancing the energy efficiency of buildings during their operational phase. However, it is essential to also consider CO2 emissions generated throughout other stages of the building’s value chain to achieve rapid emissions reductions. Addressing embodied emissions presents a challenge for the EU in decarbonising the built environment, as they are currently categorised within the industrial and waste sectors rather than the building sector. These embodied emissions are estimated to comprise between 10% and 20% of construction-related CO2 emissions in the EU, and in certain European countries, this figure could be as high as 50%. To effectively decarbonise the built environment, circular economy and circular construction offers a pathway to ensure the efficient use of resources and to mitigate embodied emissions generated across various stages of a building’s life cycle.”

Read the full article on the BUILDUP website.

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