Circular Economy Ellis Fox Blog

Which change can make the most difference to construction?

There’s a lot that could change in the construction industry; the gender pay gap, the lack of diversity in the industry, the ever increasing skills gap, the persistent culture of late payments, and low cost bidding, to name a few. And all of these in their own way can make positive difference to the industry if there is concerted effort to actually implement change.

But there is one thing that could have an even greater impact, because it affects everything, from the supply chain and materials through to the sustainability and maintenance of the end products built. For centuries industry has operated on a linear business model: get resources, use resources, dispose of by- products and excess resources. The problem with the linear model is that it wastes a lot of resources and creates a lot of often toxic waste – air pollution, chemical pollution, landfill etc. It’s time to think of business in a new way.

It’s time to think circular

The concept of the circular economy is one that closes the loop and makes optimum use of resources and minimises waste. In fact one of the principles is to find ways to use waste as a resource.  Take for example the innovation to recycle car tyres into asphalt to use for road surfacing. Other concepts look at ways to utilise building rubble and recycle it into other products that can be used in other areas of construction.

Why the circular economy matters

Resources are becoming increasingly scarce and increasing prices are putting pressure on the margins of construction companies. Additionally new legislation is starting to impact construction operations. Take for example the ultra-low emissions laws for central London. Traditional heavy duty construction trucks won’t be able to operate in those areas and contractors will be forced to find other solutions.  Environmental laws will impact how much waste can be disposed of and where. And given that the construction industry generates a massive amount of waste, it is going to become a serious problem – unless ways are found to start utilising that waste as a resource.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the construction industry is under pressure and CEO’s are having to seriously consider their strategies going forward. How much will the circular economy factor into this and will it drive change in the industry that could make a real difference – to the bottom line, to the environment, and to the economy as a whole?