Before the pressing COVID-19 crisis exploded, it was widely recognised that the world was in the throes of a climate emergency, and once we have started to recover from the current situation, the climate crisis will still be there. Tackling the crisis requires not only mitigating our carbon footprint today but evolving our entire way of living and working to ensure a sustainable future. This is even more challenging when you consider the huge growth that is taking place in cities across the globe. In London alone, projections in the London Plan are that we are going to need 66,000 new homes each year to accommodate the increasing population, this will also need to be complemented with new places for employment, leisure and support services. That is a lot of new construction. Based on the information in LWARB’s recently published business plan, I estimate the built environment is already accountable for over 10% of London’s consumption-based carbon emissions, as well as being the biggest producer of waste, so accommodating this growth whilst tackling the climate emergency is seemingly impossible. But the good news is that circular construction can help make the impossible possible, and with the right push in the right area, it could really take off.
What is circular construction?
Circular construction is where we close material loops by reusing, sharing, leasing, repairing, refurbishing, upcycling, or recycling rather than continuing with the traditional take-make-consume-dispose process. This is already happening in pockets across Europe in both the public and private sector. Research projects such as BAMB (Buildings As Material Banks) have developed techniques, tools and approaches to help make construction more sustainable, and these ideas have been tested either on a lab scale or in pilots. But we want this to become the new norm, rather than the exception.
CIRCuIT – an opportunity to go big on circular construction in Europe
That is why we are part of the Horizon 2020-funded Circular Construction In Regenerative Cities (CIRCuIT) project. Working in collaboration with partners from across London, Copenhagen, Hamburg and the Helsinki Region, LWARB is aiming to reduce the yearly consumption of virgin raw material by 20% in new built environments, show cost savings of 15% and help the built environment deliver the Mayor’s commitment to making London a zero-carbon city by 2050.
Through delivering a series of demonstrations, case studies, events and other dissemination activities, we intend to showcase how circular construction approaches can be scaled and replicated across Europe.
We will be employing cutting edge techniques to conduct pre-demolition audits to maximise the quantity of potential construction waste that can be reused. We will also be developing ways to identify existing building stock that is ripe for transformation and exploring new ways to construct flexible and adaptable buildings. Alongside this we will be developing tools, planning instruments and business cases to bridge the gap from individual pilots to implementation city-wide.
London is already leading the way
The requirement for a Circular Economy Statement in the draft London Plan is already a beacon of best practice across Europe and we plan to use the knowledge we gain through the CIRCuIT project to further support the Greater London Authority (GLA) in its implementation. We also hope to support London boroughs who want to embed circular construction into their Development Plans.
The culmination will be a city equipped to massively reduce its reliance on virgin building materials, in particular those with very high levels of embedded carbon; as well as a new circular economy route map for London’s built environment, building on the first ground-breaking route map published in 2017. Developed in conjunction with our partners and stakeholders from across London and Europe, the new route map will continue to keep London at the forefront of tackling climate change through its circular economy leadership.
You can find out more about the CIRCuIT project on our website. If you want to keep in touch and find out more about our dissemination and training events please sign up to our mailing list. Or if you have a project you would like us to consider for a demonstration, please get in touch here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Circular London and LWARB are excited to announce #CEweekLDN 2020 will be hosted online 1-5 June. In line with our commitment to address carbon emissions, this year’s focus is on how cities and businesses are mitigating carbon and innovating for climate action through the circular economy.For more information and highlights from past events, visit ceweek.london.
Writtne by Andrea Charlson Built Environment Project Manager, Circular London – @AndreaCharlson