🏢 Built environment - Knowledge Hub | Circle Economy Foundation
🏢 Built environment

The built environment, including housing, commercial buildings, and the necessary infrastructure for mobility, is essential for our livelihoods, but:

  • the extraction of minerals used to produce construction materials is responsible for a quarter of global land use change,
  • approximately 40% of global GHG emissions can be attributed to buildings’ construction, use and demolition, and
  • construction and demolition processes drive nearly one-third of all material consumption.

Making the built environment more circular must prioritise a heavy reduction in material use—while also closing the loop on materials and bringing secondary and renewable material choices to the fore. Our four key solutions for the built environment are:

  • Make the most of what already exists: Make the most of existing materials by reusing, repurposing, upgrading and renovating following circular approaches. Where new builds are needed, use secondary materials and be as efficient as possible with urban planning solutions that follow circular design principles so that buildings can be reused, repurposed, and easily disassembled in the future.
  • Be as energy efficient as possible: From the design phase, utilise circular strategies to create material- and energy efficient buildings. Couple these designs with a rollout of clean energy solutions, and prioritise energy-efficient appliances and retrofitting.
  • Utilise secondary materials: Maximise the high-value reuse of buildings and components where possible. Ideally, enable the utilisation of construction and demolition outputs and ensure that as much of it as possible is recycled to avoid the need for virgin materials, such as sand and gravel.
  • Prioritise circular materials and approaches: Transition to using renewable wood, timber or cross-laminated timber instead of steel and concrete, or move to other locally available materials. Utilise mainstream modular construction and prioritise lightweight frames and structures to reduce cement and steel use, as well as green roofs where possible.
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