In recent years, the term "circular economy" has become increasingly widespread and has also reached the construction industry. There are a variety of levers for implementing the concept in the construction and real estate sector. In the report "Circular Economy - Closing loops means being fit for the future", the DGNB has gathered strategic fields of action and informs the relevant stakeholders about how they can actively participate in the transformation towards a circular economy. Building owners and planners are provided with a toolbox that shows how the idea of circular economy can be realised in their concrete project.
The circular economy is based on the three principles of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which can be implemented as follows:
The DGNB builds on this definition of the circular economy and wishes to contribute to a far-reaching consensus and to the dissemination of this basic under¬standing.
The globally widespread linear economic system is based on a life on credit. It rests upon the use of finite resources and leads to the growing scarcity of resources through increasing consumption and population growth, with environmental problems getting worse and global injustice increasing drastically.
Instead of extracting resources regardless of their finiteness as before and disposing of them again after a short period of use, we should focus on preserving quality and on the resulting possible circulation between the phases of production and use.
In view of the fact that globally available resources are finite, it is becoming increasingly important to keep the raw materials once taken from the planet in a high-quality condition and to use them as long as possible. Nevertheless, more and more new resources are introduced into new buildings and consumer goods, where they usually remain in or are "stored" in for many decades. Instead of disposing of these at the end of life, the building stock and also the goods produced by man are increasingly being considered as a central source of raw materials. In this context one speaks of "urban mining" or of the anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) stock.
Over the course of half a year, the DGNB held a series of workshops on the subject of "circular economy" together with experts from the construction and real estate sector as well as from the waste management sector. The following workshops took place in 2018:
"Circular Economy – Shared Spaces"
"Circular Economy – Construction level/building structure"
"Circular Economy – Deconstruction"
The results gathered in the workshops have been published in the report "Circular EconomyEconomy - Closing loops means being fit for the future".
The responsible use of resources has been a central concern of the DGNB from the outset. For this reason, the DGNB has anchored in its certification system and thus in the market a large number of aspects that contribute to a circular economy in the construction and real estate sector. These are for instance the building life cycle assessment, the conscious choice of construction products with regard to their composition and origin, as well as the ease of recovery and recycling.
Furthermore, circular economy bonuses were introduced with the 2018 version of the DGNB system, allowing for the first time to make concrete, progressive solutions for promoting circular economy at the building level assessable and measurable within the framework of certification. By awarding bonus points, which have a positive effect on the certification result, incentives and experimental spaces are created to develop new solutions and promote innovation. As part of the revision of the DGNB system for districts, these bonuses will also be transferred to the district level and further developed accordingly.
After all, sustainable construction can only succeed if everyone fulfils his or her responsibilities and uses the corresponding potential. This is the only way that individual measures can result in an improved, larger whole - every contribution is important and counts!
The reuse of building materials and components as well as their material recovery offer great potential in all three pillars of sustainability. A detailed overview of these can be found in the Circular Economy Report (preorder here).
In practice, implementation of reuse usually fails because of the inner attitude of the stakeholders involved in the construction process and of the building users, since components that have already been used are often automatically associated with a lower quality. Other obstacles are, on the one hand, the existing uncertainty and unawareness with respect to the legal situation regarding the reuse of used components and building materials. On the other hand, existing processes are often not yet economically viable and therefore not yet scalable. In addition, there is an availability problem today: the corresponding materials or products are not always available in the required quantities with the same quality levels.
For reuse, three concrete fields of action can be identified:
The respective challenges as well as the resulting tasks and necessary steps for the stakeholders involved in the construction process are described here.
If a building loses its original function, it is deconstructed. If a possible reuse of the components/partial components/construction products has been excluded, the material recovery represents a possible scenario. In order to enable later use or recycling, construction and demolition waste must be collected and transported separately in accordance with the Commercial Waste Ordinance.
Four specific fields of action can be identified for material recovery:
The respective challenges as well as resulting tasks and necessary steps for the stakeholders involved in the construction process are described here.