BuildZero project will assess viability of circular construction

A new multi-partner study known as BuildZero will investigate whether circular practices can meet the needs of the UK’s construction sector.

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Led by Sheffield University, the project will aim to deliver national and regional insights into the best use of existing buildings and waste materials. BuildZero will assess if these resources are able to meet the UK’s building needs, targeting zero new material extraction, zero emissions and zero waste.

Alongside Sheffield, the five-year study will harness expertise from the universities of Bath, Manchester, Cardiff and Cambridge, as well as industrial partners. The £6m project is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

“This funding is an exciting opportunity to explore if, and under what timeframes, a circular economy can be achieved for the UK’s building stock, whilst meeting essential societal needs,” said project leader Dr Danielle Densley Tingley, senior lecturer in Architectural Engineering at Sheffield University.

“We will be working in close collaboration with industry partners to support changes in practice and help catalyse the shift to a widespread circular economy in the built environment.”

Buildings and infrastructure are responsible for over 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions, produce over 60 per cent of the UK’s waste, and consume approximately 50 per cent of all extracted materials globally. Significant changes are needed to decarbonise the sector, with circular practices seen as a vital part of the strategy.

According to the project partners, previous circular economy endeavours for the construction sector have largely focused on individual buildings or recycling of individual materials, ignoring the more fundamental problems across the wider system.

BuildZero aims to present a larger-scale, holistic approach to circular construction, using methods from architecture, structural engineering, materials science and social sciences. It will seek to gain a better understanding of existing building stock, resource and waste flows, as well as social attitudes and economics surrounding potential circular economy business models for the sector. 

“Through this project, we are aiming to get a clearer view of how different approaches to a more circular economy fit together for the UK building stock as a whole, and therefore where the largest opportunities lie,” Dr Rick Lupton from Bath University said in a statement.