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A circular approach to building buildings

As part of the commitment to a full circular economy by 2050, the Netherlands has set an important interim goal to halve primary resource usage by 2030 by keeping existing materials in the economy. What role can the construction sector play? And how can Canada and the Netherlands learn from each other when it comes to circular building?

Senior trade officer Marjan Lahuis opened the session, moderated by Paul van der Werf from AET Group, stating that the construction sector, together with the materials industries that support it, is one of the major global users of natural resources. Therefore, it is important to shift gears and look into ways to maximize the efficient use of resources by using fewer raw materials and less energy, as well as looking for ways to repurpose materials where possible.

Working towards long-term goals

According to Marijn Emanuel, from Dutch W-E consultancy, the circular economy is a way for us to achieve the balance between the environment, social and economic aspects, thus achieving a sustainable society. As part of their long-term goals, the Netherlands has established the platform CB’23. The platform is committed to drafting agreements for the entire Dutch construction sector: both residential and non-residential construction and civil engineering.

Marijn Emanuel speaking during circular economy webinar on circular building

CB’23 addresses themes like public procurement (fully circular in 2023), measuring circularity and circular design strategies. In that regard, Emanuel highlighted material passports, that identify materials as used and reuse them to prevent those materials from going to waste.

Considering environmental impact

Matthew Hirsch and Dora Vancso from Purpose Building gave a Canadian perspective on circular economy principles for buildings. In Canada, certifications like LEED are stimulating circular thinking by rewarding better material selection. There is an increased used of materials that have a lower environmental impact and that help closing the loop.

Matthew Hirsch and Dora Vancso speaking during the circular economy webinar on circular building

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is becoming an important tool in building construction to quantify the environmental impacts. At this time, more than half of the embodied emissions come from the use of concrete. The more energy efficient the buildings become, the larger embodied emissions relative impact would be. Canada generates about 4 million tonnes of construction waste, only 16 per cent is diverted from landfill. When looking at the materials that are deemed as waste over the lifetime of the building, over 75 per cent has residual value. The challenge is to eliminate the idea of waste in each phase of the construction process.

Holistic collaboration

Jen Hancock from Chandos spoke about a collaborative model to construction project delivery. The Integrated Project Delivery model (IPD) is particularly advantageous for circular buildings, which involves various stakeholders working together holistically towards a single goal, rather than a more hierarchical structure that traditional project delivery structures use.

Jen Hancock speaking during the circular economy webinar on circular building

However, while circular building projects benefit from this approach, it requires strong communication in order to succeed. The collaborative model provides all stakeholders with a high level of transparency.

Thinking differently

Jurrian Knijtijzer from Finch Buildings stressed the importance of thinking differently in the construction industry. In Europe, the build environment is responsible for 36 per cent of all CO2 emissions.

Jurrian Knijtijzer speaking during the circular economy webinar on circular building

Modular building is one of the ways to build using circular economy concepts. Using timber instead of concrete, for example, reduces the emissions of construction. Modules or their elements can be reused. A challenge for the building industry is its long-term focus. The life of materials can be extended in the construction industry by finding different ways of re-using the material once its first use is done.

- With files from Kartik Moorthy

Want to watch the full episode?

To watch the full recording of the webinar, please click here.

More information

The webinar “Another (reused) brick in the wall: the circular approach to building buildings” is part of the series “Making the Circular Economy Real”, organized by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Toronto and Canada Circular Hotspot. Key objectives of the webinar series are increasing participant’s knowledge, expanding networks, showing the circular economy in real world action and inspiring the development of new circular economy projects in Ontario and across Canada.

Please find below the recordings of the previous webinars in the series “Making the Circular Economy Real”:

Contact us

Are you interested in learning more about the Dutch-Canadian cooperation or in connecting with Dutch parties, for inspiration, networking or doing business? We would love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to our Economic Affairs team at tor-ea@minbuza.nl.