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  • Subject news: Architecture
17.12.2019

Wood as material in a circular economy

The Nordic Climate Action Weeks, arranged by Nordic Council of Ministers, took place in two locations, one at COP25 in Madrid and one in Norrsken House in Stockholm. The Wood in Construction secretariat participated in the side event "Circular Economy – more than a quick fix!" to discuss how we can transition to a circular economy and how wood as a construction material can contribute to this transition.

If the circular economy is to replace the linear economy, then what is circular economy and what needs to be done? Why we need to think and act in circles. Political leadership and policy instrument is needed, but what needs to be done?

 

Climate change and sustainable development challenge our modern societies in many ways and well known answers are not sufficient anymore. We need to do something new and different. Circular Economy seems to be a prominent and popular answer to tackle climate changes and the need for sustainable development.

The construction sector is facing some huge challenges to become more sustainable and facts like 60% of European office space is unoccupied (during office hours), 50% of steel used in buildings is in excess of what is needed and 10-15% of delivered materials are not employed in actual construction process but wasted calls for new ways of planning and processes in the sector.

There are many gains to be made in the design and planning phases of construction and here can the choice of wood as a material contribute to a more sustainable sector. As wood is the only significant renewable construction material, wood can also contribute to a more circular construction sector. 

 

This event discussed the impact of the circular economy to the existing market economy in its present form. At the event there was agreement among the panelists that circular economy is NOT a quick fix and will need political leadership and policy instruments to be successful implemented.

Anders Vestergaard Jensen (Project manager for the Wood in Construction secretariat) mentioned a few policy interventions that could boost the circular economy in the construction sector (The Circular Economy - a Powerful Force for Climate Mitigation, Material Economics and others, 2018):

  • Setting targets for the circular economy in the construction sector (e.g. secondary material production, increased lifetime and improved material efficiency)
  • Create enablers (the public sector can drive new R&D and early deployment to stimulate innovation)
  • Level the playing field (remove incentives to waste and improve the financial case for investment in circular economy measures)
  • Take government action across a range of areas (especially where government already is a major actor shaping outcomes - e.g. public procurement)

Today we see many Nordic cities already implementing measures to reduce the carbon footprint and material use in the construction of public funded projects, however, we will need a lot more cities and national governments to implement policy measures to boost the circular economy transition.

Daniela Grotenfelt, Head of Sustainability Arkitema Architects and Anders Vestergaard Jensen discussing circular economy in the construction sector.

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The Nordic Wood in Construction Secretariat is hosted by EIT Climate-KIC

The project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.