Economy

18 august 2017

Circular building: beneficial mainly for demolition and wholesale


Steven Trypsteen

Economist

In the present-day linear production model, raw materials are first processed, then used for production and, finally, dumped. That model has yielded considerable prosperity in the past 250 years, but has gradually reached its limits. The circular economy can provide a solution. This approach changes the production process and raw materials can be kept going as long as possible. What opportunities does this offer to the construction sector?

The current linear production model leads to depletion of certain raw materials, resulting in an upward price pressure. The circular economy can turn the trend around, and the construction sector can make a significant contribution to making the economy more circular.

Research indicates that not all partners in the production chain stand to gain equally from the rise of circular building. Demolition and wholesale in particular stand to benefit from it. Suppliers of low-tech building materials may, however, see their growth potential decline.

Bear in mind

  • In a linear production model, raw materials are processed, used and then dumped.
  • In a circular process raw materials are used more efficiently and are more easily reused. The circular economy strives to optimise value retention. The fewer adjustments needed to reuse a product, the better.
Circular building influences the entire building process

Circular building is not only about recycling. The entire building process is impacted. Architects, engineers and contractors consider, already at the start of the building process, the most efficient use of raw materials. Moreover, they are building structures in such a way that the future reuse of entire buildings and/or building materials will be easier. It is not only when tearing down a structure that people consider recycling. Circular building impacts the entire building process.

Recycling as a final option

The now frequently recurring topic of recycling wipes out to a large extent the added value of building materials and reduces the later back to the value of the raw material. This means we are also talking about down-cycling.

It is better for building materials, parts of a building or an entire building to reuse. In the construction trade this can often be done for the whole building. Recycling is in fact to be used only a last-minute solution. A window frame is in fact more valuable than the mere wood.

A circular economy strives to optimise value maintenance. The shorter the cycle because the product can be reused with a minimum of transformations, the better.

Sale and reuse of building materials

Circular construction offers opportunities primarily for demolition and wholesale. By 'dismantling' buildings instead of demolishing them, and thus being able to sell building materials at as high a value as possible, demolishers can provide greater added value.

For wholesalers, opportunities can be found in the reuse of materials. They can buy used building materials and offer them for resale by managing a raw materials bank. Wholesalers have the advantage that they have access to a network of contractors to whom they can sell such materials.

Circular building is unfortunately not a benefit to every partner in the production chain. In particular, suppliers of low-tech building materials may see their growth potential decline. As a result of reduced use of new building materials, the demand for new low-tech building materials may fall.

Interested in circular building?
Discover the possibilities for the sector in the whole research (PDF).

More info?