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How to promote a circular economy

Within a few years, we have been hit by the powerful impact of climate change, pandemics and wars. Meanwhile, a growing population means that fewer resources need to stretch further. Our lifestyle of consumption is a major cause of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – and we urgently need to move from wasteful to resourceful.

In our latest Urban Insight report, Building the Future Through Circular Data, we explore in detail the tools and best practices we can use to transition from linear construction methods in order to promote circular economy thinking and move towards greater sustainability in urban areas to achieve net zero cities and societies.

1. Stop demolishing value

For every square metre of floor space we demolish, we can effectively be destroying a value of around £650. Stop demolishing circular values and start exploring renovation and retrofitting as an alternative to rebuilding.

2. Create value from existing buildings

Use what you have and avoid emissions, costs and waste in line with EU requirements. Data tools are crucial in providing the overview of resources and the intelligence needed to illustrate ‘embodied values’ and make smarter circular decisions.

3. Generate the biggest bang for your buck

Circular decisions at an early stage of a project, in the design phase, will make the greatest environmental impact and lead to the ‘biggest bang for your buck’. Use data-driven design tools in combination with multi-disciplinary experts to design products and buildings that function within closed-loop resource systems.

4. Describe values with new currencies

Circular value creation requires us to handle different types of values, not only financial ones. They are described in different units: € for monetary values, kWh for energy, CO2 for climate impact, Circularity Index for adaptivity, assembly and disassembly, and so forth.

5. Avoid risk with circularity

Circularity is an instrument for achieving a portfolio of net-zero carbon buildings, or even carbon positive ones. A carbon fee or tax is likely to become reality also for the real estate and construction sector. Closed-loop, resourceful and effective systems are also less exposed to outside risks such as price shocks and material scarcity.

6. Extract the ‘green gold’

Those actors in control of their sustainability data and who can make sense of it, analyse and visualise it, are better equipped to attract green funding, hence harvest the ‘green gold’.

7. Manage your buildings and work smarter

Digital twins can support a more efficient use of space. Review whether you can adapt layouts and spaces, or change the use to better optimise the space.

8. Combine data with expertise

Date alone is not enough. Complexity demands both data-driven tools and expert dialogue to support strategic decision making.

9. Stop wasting time

Save up to 80% of your time by improving data management. Different formats for data, concepts, measurements and systems is a challenge, so striving for a common lexicon is vital. Database structures, such as BIM, are needed with a ’dictionary’ flexible enough to bridge the various terms in use.

10. Be forward-looking and collaborative

Current best practice is not enough in a changing world. The ongoing development of tools is rapid and disruptive. Organisations and businesses should look to the future and move from copying best practices to creating next practices for sharing knowledge, tool and reference projects. Collaboration and access to existing information encourages value creation. Irrespective of how powerful the tools are, a siloed organisation risks missing out on the creative added value that collaboration brings.

In our latest Urban Insight report we give you a snapshot of current and next-practice tools for value generation in the property sector. In an urgent call to move from wasteful to resourceful, we show how buildings can be built, upcycled, refurbished, rebuilt, or managed in a circular way.