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Building materials in a circular economy

  • Published on July 3, 2023

This report is one of four projects examining how the transition to a circular housing economy could be implemented to provide sustainable housing. The transition to a circular economy (CE) from a linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy, has become a widely discussed topic in both academia and industry since its introduction from policy makers such as in the European Union (EU 2018). Considering the unsustainable approaches within the sector, academics have highlighted that there is an urgent need to shift into a more sustainable framework, with a focus on implementing a CE approach (e.g. Munaro, Tavares et al. 2020; Norouzi, Chàfer et al. 2021; Núñez-Cacho, Górecki et al. 2018; Panteli, Kylili et al. 2018). The focus of the project is the flow of building materials into and out of the residential housing system. There is a temporal element to this research, as new construction adds new materials to the existing stock, while demolition creates a flow of materials out of the stock laid down in previous eras. From a circular perspective, demolition promotes only downcycling, whereas deconstruction retains value and in some cases, upcycling. All of the materials used to construct the existing housing stock are produced by manufacturing industries that emit greenhouse gases (GHG), and new construction is equally—if not more—GHG-intensive.

Professor Usha Iyer-Raniga is at the School of Property and Construction Management at RMIT University. Usha is co-leading the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Programme (SBC), United Nations 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (UN 10FYP SCP) aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 12, as well as the newly formed Integrated Platform for Circular Economy, Climate Resilience, and Energy. This report is directly related to the work of the UN OPN SBC programme.

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