Sustainability is often seen as a tick box exercise or a barrier to innovation or growth.

THERE is a growing realisation that climate change is happening and that “something” needs to be done: record temperatures were reached this summer in Europe, Switzerland reported that all of their glaciers melted, wildfi re and drought were reported in parts of Europe not often concerned by this issue, such as the UK. In addition, the price of energy is hitting record prices and materials are getting harder to obtain. There is therefore a stronger realisation that something needs to be done and we all have a part of play.

Sustainability can mean a number of things from carbon emission reduction to resource efficiency, air quality, or biodiversity. While there is no “truly sustainable” solution, sustainability is a journey that we need to embark on and work together to reduce our environmental impacts and improve our social values while at the same time keeping within an economic solution.

The current approach taken by the industry is to extract raw materials, and process them to be used in the manufacture of products which can then be installed on buildings, used and then disposed of. The construction industry uses vast amounts of resources and is very wasteful. In 2016, it was estimated that 60 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste and 51 million tonnes of excavation waste were generated. While the majority gets recycled, the quantities are huge and the industry is aware that it should consider ways to reduce them. The Zero Avoidable Wastes report1 from the Green Construction Board estimates that the “true” cost of wastes from new build construction is worth £11 billion per year and is responsible for over three million tonnes of CO2 eq per year.

Waste can appear at different stages of the life of a project. Sometimes, new products are wasted due to over ordering or products get damaged during transport or installation. Buildings are often completed to Cat A to help potential tenants visualise the space that they might rent. However, the new tenants will, more often than not, rip out all the fi nishes to match them with their identity, brand, or taste. The approach to Cat A is therefore being questioned2 and the transition from Cat A to Cat B needs to be thought about more carefully moving forward. Buildings are often refurbished every fi ve to seven years, each refurbishment leading to the removal of products that have often not reached the end of their useful life.

Circular economy is a terminology that became more mainstream in the construction sector in the last five to seven years. Continue reading to find out more about this concept.