Reducing the demand for new materials and embodied carbon will be significant challenges that the construction sector faces in the coming decades. The rate of resources accumulated in the built environment increased 23-fold in the 20th century, which far exceeds the planet’s capacity to regenerate and has serious implications for global greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing this interlinked material demand and emissions problem requires a step-change in practice, and implementation of circular economic (CE) strategies, where materials are highly valued and remain in use for as long as possible. However, detailed knowledge of types and quantities of material locked in the building stock is lacking, thus hindering an estimation of CE potential.
This project aims to develop a spatially multi-scale framework to assess CE potential in individual buildings, cities and countries. The framework, applied to non-residential construction in the UK, will enable estimation of CE potential in the existing stock. It will utilise bottom-up material stock analysis to assess building level material intensity, embodied carbon and CE potential. This will be combined with computer vision data to assess urban building stocks, with demand modelling applied to explore future material demand scenarios and optimise CE potential. The embodied carbon of this material demand will also be forecast so it can be considered as part of UK decarbonisation pathways.
This research will build the evidence base to demonstrate the role the circular economy can have in tackling these challenges in construction, and provide the knowledge required to facilitate shifts in policy and practice.