How circular construction builds a sustainable society

Smart design and circular components play a vital role in reducing resource consumption and carbon emissions in cities. The eighth episode of Circular Table Talks focused on Ragn-Sells' new insight report “How circular construction builds a sustainable society”, commissioned to understand how everyone in the value chain need to work together to improve the circularity of our cities.

06 Jul 2023

The eighth episode of Circular Table Talks focuses on essential solutions to make our cities more circular, sustainable, and liveable, from design to implementation. Here you can watch the full episode, below the video you find a summary of the episode in writing.

Circular Table Talks VIII

June 2023 | Construction, Transforming Waste into Wealth.

Serge Salat; Rethinking cities of the future

Serge Salat, President of the Urban Morphology and Complex Systems Institute, emphasised the need to rethink urbanisation by redesigning cities and buildings. This involves optimising the ratio of buildings, streets, and open spaces to enhance resource efficiency. Key factors include the sizing and orientation of buildings, allowing for natural ventilation, solar gains, and shade. Redesigning buildings to serve multiple purposes and promoting sustainable behaviours among residents are also crucial.

- Ultimately, cities and buildings are about people. It’s not the cities and buildings that consume resources, it’s ultimately the people, said Salat.

Pärtel-Peeter Pere; Policy roadmaps for climate-neutral cities

The Estonian Member of Parliament, Pärtel-Peeter Pere, discussed their construction roadmap for climate-neutral cities. The Estonian government has implemented carbon emission measurements for all new buildings, with a plan to extend this approach at the European Union level by 2030. Pärtel stressed the significance of circular materials to ensure buildings adhere to the emission cap. For instance, he mentioned the Future Built project in Norway, where an office building in Oslo was renovated using 80% reused materials, resulting in a 70% reduction in the renovation's carbon footprint.

Kristina Nore; Wood, a circular building material

Kristina Nore, Research and Innovation Manager at OMTRE, highlighted the use of wood as a circular material in construction. She underlined that "Wood is carbon," explaining that building with timber effectively stores carbon in long-lasting structures. However, the use of wood as a resource is linked to forest exploitation, leading to biodiversity loss. To promote increased wood utilisation, it is crucial to repurpose currently wasted wood resources.

- In Norway we waste just about the same amount [of wood] as we build, so it is natural to take more care of this resource, Kristina explains, referring to her project SirkTRE which takes half of the wasted wood in Norway and uses it to create new construction materials. This action alone equates to 8% of Norway’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Anders Bang Kiertzner; Form follows availability - moving from efficiency to sufficiency

Anders Bang Kiertzner, Director of Circular Advising at Lendager Group, concluded the presentations by introducing a fresh architectural perspective: Form follows availability. This approach emphasises shifting our focus from efficiency to sufficiency. It underscores the importance of prioritising what we truly need over what we desire, particularly in the Global North. In the building and construction sector, this entails challenging conventional practices of the past 50 years and seeking innovative solutions to decrease emissions from transportation, resource extraction, and other areas.

Anders brought up an example from Berlin:

- We are currently working on a large project in the centre of Berlin where we are using the existing structure of the building that is already on the plot, and the additional materials that need to go into the building are sourced from a renovation project that is taking place right next door.

Pär Larshans; Legislation for circular construction

As a closing remark, Pär Larshans, Director of Sustainability at Ragn-Sells, concluded the presentations by highlighting the impact of EU legislation on circular construction. Current legislation often hinders the involvement of recycling companies in remodelling projects. To address this issue, roundtable discussions were conducted as part of the report "How circular construction builds a sustainable society" to identify potential solutions. The findings of these discussions revealed some surprising insights.

- When we had those roundtables, the different stakeholders had very seldomly met before. We have very little collaboration across the value chain, we work in our silos. We need to break this up, said Larshans.

How circular construction builds a sustainable society

Download the Insight report.