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The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into the circular economy and the benefits of maximising value of resources beyond end-use.


According to the Green Building Council, the construction and demolition sector is the leading contributor to waste in the UK, responsible for generating 120m tonnes every year.

The founder of building waste reuse business Yooz could not have been more pleased when he was offered a 10,000 tonne steel roof from the London Olympics for a large sports centre for disabled people.

“The roof would have been so ideal for the centre,” said Ian Strachan. “But we were building it near Glasgow and the logistics of getting it to us were impossible. It was cheaper to buy a new one in the end.”

He went on to say that the situation emphasizes the unsustainable nature of the facilities management and property sector, where properties are seldom built to last or be reused.

Speaking at this month’s Resource event “releasing the opportunities of the circular economy” Ian Strachan commented:

“When new stuff is being built like this, especially when it’s only for a 12-day event and it’s going to be deconstructed soon after, there really needs to be more thought about what will happen to those materials,”

He is expecting a similar situation to take place after Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games this summer, and added:

“A lot needs to be learned around major investments like this.”

He went on to say that the situation emphasizes the unsustainable nature of the facilities management and property sector, where properties are seldom built to last or be reused.

Various other speakers at the event noted that the sustainability agenda in construction had progressively gravitated towards recycling, when the focus should be on reuse. There were calls for more information and records on materials used in buildings in order to promote the re-use thereof.

“So much energy and effort goes into crushing up concrete and then cementing or gluing it back together,” said Graham Hilton, director of the Alliance for Sustainable Building. “It takes a huge amount of energy and uses more virgin materials. Things need to be made so that they are bolted together and then taken apart for reuse.”

Dan Epstein, senior director at sustainable design organisation Useful Simple Trust, added:

“There are so many products that we don’t know what do with after a certain amount of time, we need to be thinking about these things from the beginning – assembly for disassembly.”

“Lessons could be learned from the car industry,” said Hilton. “Cars look completely different but underneath the modular design is the same, it’s easy to replace components rather than just scrap the whole car when something goes wrong. What we need in the building industry is one way to put things together and take them apart. We need a Tesco room to be able to fit into an M&S room – they can still look different.”

He went on to say:

“We’re playing a game of monopoly where everyone is losing,” “People can’t afford the homes they want, builders can’t afford to deliver the quality of buildings we want; there’s a huge gap in what’s designed and what’s delivered. Buildings don’t last as long as they should and banks don’t feel confident enough to secure loans against them.

“Let’s start using better designed reusable components from the start, so we can take a bite out of the huge amount of waste that comes from this sector. There is a slightly higher front-end cost, but the cost benefits work out very well in the long run,”

Those interested are encouraged to submit written evidence to the committee online to support paperless working, with a deadline for entries set for April 25 2014.


The Guardian

Let’s Recycle