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Construction: Circularity Could See Emissions Drop by 75%.

construction sustainability
construction sustainability

“Every cloud has a silver lining,” and this saying is especially true in construction when we think about how a circular economy can change things for the better. 

The idea of a circular economy is about using materials and products over and over through reuse, repair, refurbishment, and recycling. This way of doing things requires a big change from the construction industry. It moves away from the old way of ‘take-make-dispose’ to a more sustainable approach that could help solve some of our biggest environmental problems. This article delves into how embracing circularity in the construction sector could be a game-changer in reducing carbon dioxide emissions — possibly by a staggering 75%!

A New Dawn in Construction

The construction industry is a major player in global development, but it’s also responsible for about 26% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is a big deal, considering how large the industry is and how it shapes our cities and infrastructure. 

However, there’s good news from a recent report by the World Economic Forum and McKinsey. They say that the construction industry has a lot of room to make a positive environmental impact by using a circular economy model. This model suggests changing how we use materials and offers a new way to think about how we build and how long buildings last.

Circular Economy: A Concept Reimagined

In simple terms, a circular economy in construction focuses on using materials again and again. This means a lot less waste and fewer emissions. It’s a big change from the old way of doing things, which was basically “take, make, dispose.” If we start reusing materials like cement, steel, and plastics, the construction world can become more sustainable and save money. To make this happen, we need to change the way we think about building. Architects and builders should plan for how materials can be reused even before they start a project. This kind of thinking could lead to new, eco-friendly designs that also save money over time.

The Economic and Environmental Payoff

The benefits are clear in the numbers. By going circular, we could see global economic gains of up to £36 billion by 2030 and a huge £823 billion by 2050. These numbers show just how much money we can save by being sustainable. Plus, this change fits perfectly with our goals for global development. It’s good for both the planet and our wallets. The benefits aren’t just about less emissions. We’ll also need to take less from the earth and reduce our overall carbon footprint. On top of that, this change could create new jobs and boost green technology, making a strong case for a circular economy in construction.

Transforming Materials, Transforming the Sector

Each material in construction holds a specific potential for circularity:

Cement: Cement’s circular model presents the highest potential value, possibly generating £7.8 billion by 2030 and £96 billion by 2050.

Steel: Celebrated for its high recyclability, steel represents a significant opportunity for reducing emissions through circular practices.

Aluminium, Plastics, and Glass: Focusing on increasing the use of recycled materials in these sectors could cut emissions for these materials by up to 89%, 62%, and 41%, respectively, by 2050.

The Call to Action for Business Leaders

The report serves not just as an informative document but as a clarion call to construction business leaders in both public and private sectors. It outlines clear, actionable strategies for transition, emphasizing the importance of engaging the entire sector for a long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Path Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities

Authors Sebastian Reiter and Jukka Maksimainen of McKinsey highlight the extraordinary financial and carbon-saving potential of circularity. However, they also note the current lack of market solutions addressing this issue at scale. The path forward involves developing scalable solutions and encouraging innovation in material use and recycling practices.

Conclusion: A Future Worth Building

As we stand at the crossroads of environmental crisis and economic opportunity, the construction industry’s move towards a circular economy presents a beacon of hope. 

It’s not just about reducing emissions or saving costs – it’s about redefining the industry for a sustainable future. With the right strategies and commitment, the construction sector can indeed see a drop in emissions by 75%, setting a precedent for other industries to follow.