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Mace calls for London to move to circular construction


A report from Mace today makes the case for the construction industry to adopt circular economy principles to save money and reduce carbon.

The report, called Closing the circle, calls for London – and particularly the City of London – to take the lead by incentivising and embedding circularity across the building lifecycle.

The report notes that 90.2% of waste from demolition and construction from both the City of London, and London more broadly, is currently recovered for some form of reuse or recycling. However, most of this does not end up back in the construction sector, flowing to other sectors or even overseas. This leaves the construction sector bringing in much more virgin material than this recycling rate would suggest.

What is needed, Mace’s report argues, is a closed materials loop, which would cut the lifecycle emissions of redevelopment projects, as well as reduce their costs.

By adopting more circular approaches over the next decade, more than 900,000 tonnes of material could remain within the City of London’s construction supply chain, rather than leaking elsewhere, Mace calculates.

Expanding to London as a whole, circularity would keep 13.8 million tonnes of materials within the construction supply chain over the coming decade. If produced new, these materials would generate 11.8 million tonnes of CO2, or 3.6% of the UK’s total emissions, it says.

In a bid to reduce the use of virgin materials used in construction, the report makes recommendations to put London in a leading position in the global circular construction economy:

  • Develop physical and virtual ‘circularity material banks’ that enable smaller companies to take advantage of materials produced elsewhere in the industry.
  • Introduce ‘materials passports’ that track the source of materials within the supply chain and enable easier re-use, an approach that digitally catalogues the materials and components used within a building to promote easier reuse at the end of the buildings’ lifespan.
  • Bring industry and government together to build a credible circularity accreditation scheme to allow clients, investors and contractors to demonstrate the value of their commitment to circularity.

James Low, head of responsible business at Mace, said: “We must be able to deliver zero embodied carbon buildings and infrastructure within our lifetimes, and we believe that the transition to a circular economy is amongst the most important innovations and system changes required to achieve that.

“This requires the entire industry to come together to provide the information, products, construction practices, and behaviours required to realise the potential carbon savings associated with a more circular model in London over the next decade.”

Mace Construct managing director Ged Simmonds added: “This thought-provoking report clearly illustrates how London can be the circularity capital of the world, a title I am certain all Londoners would be keen for it to hold.

“In the UK capital we have a unique ecosystem where construction companies, planning authorities and building occupiers are all coming together on a global issue. By adopting and mandating circularity across our built environment projects we can make significant and meaningful steps in our shared pursuit of a sustainable world.”

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