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Buildings as materials banks – Enabling a circular way of building

The circular economy aims to change the linear process in which materials are made, used and then disposed. Rather than throwing away, when a material comes to the end of its service it can be reused or regenerated into new products. The material is viewed as a resource rather than waste.

BRE is a key partner in the EU Horizon 2020 Buildings as Material Banks (BAMB) project. This three and a half years, sixteen partner project began in September 2015 and provides significant resources in research to develop new ideas and ways of embedding circular economy thinking into the built environment.

BRE has been working in applying resource efficiency to the built environment for over 30 years, as such are recognised as the leading centre of expertise in this area. Our work has encompassed many areas of the circular economy such as: the reuse of materials; designing out waste; waste minimisation; use of recycled materials; development of technical standards; and measurement of waste and impact. The move towards circular economy builds upon this long standing knowledge, whilst transforming the way resources and buildings are used, retained and valued.

Through design we can create dynamic and flexible buildings which demonstrate  the circular way, using less virgin resources and reducing waste. In order to realise this, a systemic shift is required. Thus, BAMB is working to enable a new circular way of building. Developing and integrating materials passports and reversible building design will enable the transition  to a circular building sector.

A key aspect of the BAMB project is to help move the building industry towards a circular economy. For example, understanding what the environmental, financial and social costs and benefits of circular buildings vs. linear and linking in the data management/ evaluation to BIM to enable better decision making across the asset lifecycle.

Embedding the circular economy into the building lifecycle will help increase the sustainability credentials of building assets. Designing out and minimising waste from root cause, incorporating more reused and recycled materials into construction products and managing the end of life reuse and recycling of assets will help achieve a circular economy. In order to reach this, collaboration is essential: developing relevant policy and legislation with Government, creating action plans to increase resource efficiency and the development of technical standards is key.

BAMB is currently in the research and development phase, but BRE is aiming to work with pilot projects in the UK to test the methodology and prototypes from summer 2017 onwards.

Gilli Hobbs will be speaking at Ecobuild Build Circular Theatre on Tuesday 7 March 3.30pm