The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has today debuted a new toolkit to help the construction industry transition to a more circular economy and deliver on its goals to enable a net zero emission built environment by 2050.
Titled ‘System Enablers for a Circular Economy’, the kit unpacks the systemic barriers facing construction firms working to deliver more circular resource models and sets out a range of policy and market-based solutions that can enable a shift from a ‘linear’ built environment. to a circular, regenerative approach to material use.
It claims that widespread adoption of circular principles will be essential to deliver a net zero emissions built environment by 2050 given the role re-using and recycling materials and buildings plays in slashing embodied carbon emissions.
As such, the toolkit identifies eight enablers to nudge the likes of architects, contractors, insurance, and finance firms to embrace more circular practices.
These include greater collaboration and early engagement between industry stakeholders, the establishment of a marketplace for secondary construction materials, and the adoption of architecture practices that adhere to circular economy design principles.
Additionally, the guide aims to encourage the expansion of green contracts and leases; the utilization of tax, legislation, and policies to encourage circularity; and an uptick in green finance to stimulate business support for a circular economy.
It also flags the importance of implementing consistent cross-industry metrics, benchmarks and indicators for assessing the transition to a circular economy and arming practitioners and decision-makers with the knowledge to be able to implement circular practices more widely.
Yetunde Abdul, head of climate action at UKGBC, said the current “take-make-dispose” approach adopted by many construction firms is accelerating climate and biodiversity crises and actively contributing to higher emissions, unsustainable levels of resource use, and unnecessary levels of waste. .
“Industry can either keep trying to tweak business-as-usual and make minor improvements to a failing system, or we can make fundamental, systems level changes and create a resilient, collaborative, and thriving construction sector fit for the future,” she said. .
“UKGBC’s new guidance aims to catalyse this change through confronting some of the key barriers that exist in today’s market and signpost industry and government to the practical steps they can take to support a circular economy.”
Nicoletta Michaletos, senior consultant at engineering consultancy Buro Happold, welcomed the new toolkit, hailing it as a “very important step-change” in how green buildings and cities are viewed.
“Systemic thinking puts things into perspective,” she said. “It focuses on a better understanding of the problem rather than providing quick fixes or solutions which, if you’re aiming at the wrong thing, might cause more harm than good in the long term.
“Understanding how specific industries like architecture and the built environment work almost indistinguishable within other sectors, all in line with bigger societal goals and priorities, opens our eyes to the ways in which we might need to change not only our industry tools, but reasons for building in the first place, and the lifestyles these buildings and cities support.”