13 March 2018
By The KLH Team

It’s Not Waste, It’s Just In The Wrong Place! …And Other Lessons From Ecobuild 2018

 ‘Circular Economy’ is teetering on the verge of becoming one of those sustainability buzzwords in the construction industry. The term finds itself thrown into legislation, the ‘about us’ section of company websites and embedded in industry newsletters, devoid of meaning, real commitment and action to back it up.


However, much to our relief, the term appeared to have a new lease of life at Ecobuild 2018. Re-energised by inspiring talks from a range of young professionals and social enterprises, KLH Sustainability left Ecobuild with a spring in our step and much to discuss on the matter of realising the potential of a circular supply chain.


As an industry, we are aware of the well-established waste reduction measures that can (and should!) be taken: design to increase the life of materials; design for disassembly; utilise recycled components, to name a few. But how do we entice designers, manufacturers and consumers to implement these measures and actually change their habits? Ecobuild offered a variety of answers.


Challenging the prevalent throw-away culture, The Agency of Design advocated for the design of products consumers could see and feel the value of. Heavy, durable and high-quality design is sure to make consumers think twice before considering disposal, thus having the potential to extend the life cycle of a product well beyond its typical years. An important takeaway from this talk was to design products that age well, a valuable lesson for the construction industry.  


Rediscovering the value in waste products, Professor Dr. Ing. Hanaa Dahy from the University of Stuttgart drew on her own experience of the circular economy. Dahy’s research focuses on the application of recycled, green bio-composites in the built environment, and their ability to help us achieve zero embodied CO2 homes. Creating building materials through natural waste matter such as pine needles, Dahy has produced building materials with low to no carbon footprints.


Whilst in the Waste Quarter of Ecobuild, absorbing the atmosphere and surveying the sea of stands segregated under their designated themed banner, we were reminded of the inability to categorise aspects of sustainability into independent sectors when it comes to the construction industry. Taking waste as an example, clients need to understand how to address construction related waste issues from the very beginning of a project, designers need to develop detailed and realistic pre-demolition audits, sustainability and environmental managers need to develop policies, action plans and hold workshops with the supply chain if we are going to work towards a truly circular economy.


At KLH Sustainability, we believe that any material in a building or piece of infrastructure that does not have a structural or architectural purpose is ‘waste’. Design efficiency should always be the first port of call and considered alongside aspects such as future flexibility and low carbon material selection. Design for deconstruction, recycled content and supply take-back schemes and site construction waste management can then swiftly follow.


And of course, why should the circular economy only relate to materials? All ‘waste’ whether it is human resources not given the opportunity to reach their full potential, water resources used inefficiently, or excessive HGV movements, should be reduced at every stage of the design process with due consideration given to how to utilise all residual resources at the end of a project or product life-cycle.

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