Circular construction in London could save 3.5 per cent of UK emissions

A new report from construction firm Mace outlines how London might act as the world’s circular construction capital, with recommendations for associated information, infrastructure and investment.

London_Circular_Construction_CapitalIn the past ten years, construction and demolition operations in the City of London alone have produced 1.54 million metric tons of identifiable waste, which averages out to 2.7 metric tons per worker. However, only 10 per cent of this waste gets recycled.

In the new report – entitled “Closing the Circle” – the firm estimates that it is possible to save 13.8 million tonnes of Greater London’s construction waste in the coming decade, worth over £1.25bn.

Mace argues that this would provide a saving of over 11 million tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to 3.5 per cent of the UK’s annual emissions.

Circular construction

Despite considerable efforts to decarbonise the construction sector, in 2021 the industry still accounted for “over 34 per cent of energy demand and around 37 per cent of energy and process-related CO2 emissions”.

Mace stresses that London is the ideal location to pioneer the world’s first truly circular construction industry due to its innovative construction companies, developers, and occupants' strong focus on sustainability, coupled with planning authorities promoting circular practices.

In efforts to transition from the currently linear model towards circular construction, the report provides a number of recommendations to position London as a leader in the global circular construction economy:

  • Information: Information about the materials being used across the capital can be improved with the introduction of ‘materials passports’ to track materials within the supply chain and enable easier re-use. A materials passport is the moniker given to a ‘digital statement’ that records the materials used in buildings and Mace’s report calls for London’s industry to create a standardised model and ‘Circularity Hubs’ where resources and data on available circular materials can be shared.
  • Infrastructure: The construction industry needs develop a closer understanding of the space requirements for different types of ‘circularity material’, with the aim of establishing physical and virtual ‘circularity material banks’ to enable smaller companies to take advantage of materials produced elsewhere in the industry.
  • Incentives: Legislative mandate and financial incentives (such as public subsidy for circular construction apprenticeships, or reducing Section 106 requirements if circular practices are adopted) to encourage circularity should be explored, as well as a credible circularity accreditation scheme to allow clients, investors and contractors to demonstrate the value of their commitment to circularity

The report also encourages regulating circularity and offering financial incentives, such as reduced Section 106 requirements, for those adopting circular practices.

London: The world's circular construction capital

James Low, Global Head of Responsible Business at Mace, commented: “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.”

Ged Simmonds, Managing Director of Commercial Offices at Mace, added: “In the UK’s 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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