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Why the circular economy is an important part of built environment’s net-zero transition

In the midst of a global debate around net-zero targets, there’s growing pressure for countries, industries, and individual businesses to develop roadmaps towards net-zero.

Why? International modelling shows that in order to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C, emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

But what does this mean for the built environment industry? In short, rapid and serious reimagining of current standards and practices. 

Although these goals can sound overly ambitious, a recent study has found that adopting circular economy principles may be the carbon-neutral ticket to reaching those goals in time. And more interestingly, in many projects these principles are already being widely used. 

But first, let’s take a look at what exactly a circular economy is. 


What is a circular economy? 

The term ‘circular economy’ refers to a material sourcing and producing model that relies on reusing, repairing, repurposing, sharing, and recycling existing materials when possible. 

It can be easily defined with 3Rs:

  • Reduce 
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
In practice, this may look like eco focused engineering, 3D printing, using renewable materials and recycling key materials at all stages of construction.

Why is this important to the built environment industry? 

Modelling has found that with the help of circular economy practices, a net-zero carbon built environment by 2050 is achievable.

A recent study by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has backed this up - and also found many new projects in the UK are already using circular economy principles which have already resulted in lower carbon emissions. 

The study also notes, “circularity benefits not just carbon - but delivers against a much broader set of organisational, social, environmental, and financial aims.”

And this is the point that has many Australian industry leaders sitting up and paying attention.

The benefits of circularity are also helping address other industry challenges 

Material production and sourcing is a huge challenge currently facing the construction industry. From domestic builds to tier one projects, few have been able to avoid the impacts caused by shortages and shipping delays.

Interestingly, the study observed it’s not just environmental concerns that are driving businesses into closed-loop alternatives. It turns out many builds are using this model as a way to avoid the unpredictable costs and availability of traditional building materials. 

It notes, “most notable is the level of carbon savings occurring through the reuse of existing assets and materials (such as) existing structures, facades, and steel.” In many cases, the motivation to reuse these materials may have been born from supply shortages rather than environmental concerns. 

In Summary

Innovation in the way we develop, source, and produce building materials is moving us closer toward net-zero goals - and providing answers to some of the biggest challenges faced by the built environments sector.

Adopting and developing this model further seems to be the way forward for a multitude of reasons. 

Other countries, such as the UK, seem to be leading the way in these areas. This represents learning and business opportunities for leaders across Australia.

About CGC Recruitment

CGC Recruitment is a specialist construction, infrastructure, engineering, and architecture recruitment consultancy. We view our clients as our partners and work closely with them to meet their business needs. We work with some of Australia’s largest construction brands through to specialist SMEs and boutique consultants. We have proven experience delivering permanent, contract and retained recruitment solutions, consistently providing the right candidates for the right roles at the right time.

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