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The Built Environment accounts for
A FIFTH of global emissions
and half of all materials going into the economy.

Different regions and economic landscapes require different strategies to implement circularity in the built environment.

The built environment consumes 42.4 billion tonnes of materials every year and by 2050, the European building stock will have grown by 13% and the China building stock by a whopping extra 135%.

The majority of the houses that people in China will inhabit and the roads they will travel in the next 10 to 50 years are yet to be built. This means that the opportunity is now to build in a circular way. Design for the future makes sure we avoid locking-in linearity and the toxins of tomorrow, today.

The built environment landscape in regions like Europe are very different. They are faced with an ageing demographic, plus a mature and in cases outdated housing stock. Around 4 out
of every 10 houses in Europe were built before 1960, a time when building practices were poor by today’s standards. The priority is to sustain and preserve what is already made in this case the current building stock and boost its performance from the perspective of material reuse and energy efficiency.


Key Disruptive Strategies:

Design new buildings and cities for a circular future and optimal lifetimes, especially in emerging economies with massive population growth and urbanisation. This requires an integrated approach to designing (urban) areas, buildings and their components for flexible use, reassembly and re-use.

Sustain and extend the lifetime of buildings and infrastructure, particularly in developed countries where the population is
aging and building stocks show only incremental growth. Always consider maintenance, renovation and transformation before demolition. If no other option: ‘harvest’ building elements and recycle by keeping the material value high.

Appreciate the future value of built assets, from a financing and investment perspective and from a healthy materials perspective. Register assets and the materials they consist
of, and avoid the lock-in of future environmental and health hazards. Prioritise regenerative resources that can be cycled.


"The Paris Agreement demands that we decarbonise the global building stock, and this timely report highlights the urgency with which we must address the construction sector's total emissions impact. Without radical action towards circular construction, embodied emissions in our sector will continue to rise [...]. The Green Building Council movement stands with Circle Economy and those willing to take on this challenge.

—  James Drinkwater

Director Europe at World Green Building Council

The Circularity Gap report is launched by Circle Economy during the World Economic Forum annual meeting 2019 in Davos, Switzerland

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