CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN CONSTRUCTION
You buy a product, you use it and you throw it away. Three steps that make up a linear economy that is somewhat obsolete. Over the past few years, there has been a tendency towards a new kind of system called circular economy. This system is based on reuse and recycling in search of efficiency. Why? Because the environment and nature are important and because we have to think about what kind of world we will leave for future generations. This type of circular concept can be used in architecture for buildings that are more respectful towards nature and much more sustainable. Throughout this article, we are going to go into further detail about circular economy in construction and we’d love for you to follow along with us.
What is circular economy?
Let’s start with the basics. The first thing we need to do is define the concept of circular economy. The economy has usually taken a lineal path following three parameters: take, make and discard. This was, however, during those times when resources –energy, raw materials, etc– were believed to be unlimited and easy to access. Nowadays there is much more awareness regarding resources and this line is changing into a circle, something similar to what is happening in nature.
Circular economy is interested in the entire lifetime of the product. From its introduction into the market until it is no longer of use. Rubbish as we think of it doesn’t exist. It’s not an option. It’s just one more material on the recycling chain. Therefore, the main attribute of circular economy is none other than its reparative and regenerative purpose. For example, a key element is that the energy needed for things to work must be renewable. For this reason, circular economy is based on three principles: conserving natural capital, optimizing resources and promoting the efficiency of systems.
Applying circular economy to architecture
Now that we understand the concept, can we apply it to the field of construction and architecture? Undoubtedly, yes. What’s more, sustainable architecture of the future must apply concepts from this economy to create buildings that adapt to the environment and have a positive impact. Not because they produce less waste or because they consume less, but because they offer beneficial results for its inhabitants. To achieve this we must be based upon the four R’s:
- Reduce. This consists of avoiding the use of products or materials that are not absolutely necessary.
- Reuse. Using something again, whether for the same purpose as before or for another end. Using something again, sometimes with different functions than the original item.
- Recycle. Processing used material so that it can be used again. Transforming waste material so it can be reused. Recycling is subjecting used material or waste material to a process in which it can be recuperated, either totally or partially.
- Recover. Putting something back into service that was once no longer of use. Using materials or elements that serve as raw materials.
Is all this even profitable?
The Iberian-American magazine of construction, urban planning and real estate offers an impactful piece of information. «The use of circular economy in construction and the environment created in general could generate profits in the millions of almost one percentage point of GDP». In the construction sector, introducing circular economy means taking action in each stage of the process: planning, design and construction.
- Planning. One interesting idea is the creation of attractive spaces where people live, work and enjoy leisure activities. This way, we can reduce the use of private transportation and promote the use of public transportation. Another interesting idea is the implementation of obtaining refrigerated water through a network of distribution pipes to various buildings. This system could use up to thirty percent less electricity than conventional refrigeration technology.
- Design. Legislation can help out in the designing of buildings. How? It’s simple. It could require building plans to incorporate elements that maximize energetic efficiency and water efficiency. For example, the installation of photovoltaic solar panels or the enveloping of high-profit buildings to reduce heat and refrigeration loss.
- Construction. Modular construction is also an interesting idea for achieving circular economy in construction. Modular construction can generate savings of up to seventy-four percent on materials and sixty-eight percent on equipment costs. In addition, it would make the construction process faster and less labor-intensive. One trend is the use of three-dimensional printing in construction, with which can also greatly benefit the search for efficiency.
Our mining department at AYMA deals with the extraction resources from underground, and our construction department takes on all that is built aboveground: from industrial buildings to ports to housing developments. We not only manage projects, but we also take care of licenses, permits, surveys and reports.