Introduction – Ant Wilson MBE, Director, AECOM
“You’ve got to be holistic and agile to change!” Ant opened the event with this mantra saying that “easy wins” are exemplar and should be “future proofed”. The circular economy isn’t a “linear economy” – industry needs to keep using the same – and less – materials for as long as it can in any way and at every stage and more effectively. We can have less to live on. World-renowned Dame Ellen MacArthur said that “we should be doing more with less resources!”.
Ant cited Building Revolutions by David Cheshire (RIBA, 2016) which makes a compelling case for a profound rethink: refurb and reclaiming – driven by cost: "buildings as material banks, energy generators and service providers: the future of architecture and construction will play a key role in the transition to a circular economy”.
Ant turned to the tricky issue of mining landfill sites – which could be cheaper in the long run and is a sound economic proposition – especially for tons of gold going to landfill. This can make savings at “every step” and could reduce the burden on the world’s precious resources – as part of lifecycle assessment. Zero waste to landfill is the aim of the game with 100 per cent reuse & recycling.
He referenced the Aims of CIBSE TM56 2014 (Resource efficiency of building services): that will: help engineers and consultants to understand the principles and importance of resource efficiency; provide guidance on principles and tools relating to resource efficiency; and sets out opportunities to improve the resource efficiency of building services. Indeed: CIBSE Technical Director, Dr Hywel Davies, said: “resource-efficient building services make the best use of materials, water and energy over the lifecycle of the installed equipment”.
The drivers for resource efficiency of a building are to:
- reduce capital costs, price volatility and project risk and help to provide a hedge against future risks of material shortages;
- reduce the running costs by reducing the resources required to maintain and upgrade equipment;
- demonstrate compliance with regulations and standards;
- address the project brief or tender requirements.
Ant quoted government’s Industry Strategy: Construction 2025: “improving our understanding of design approaches, including passive design, to balance energy demand and supply in the built environment is vital in enabling the industry to design and construct high performance, resource efficient buildings.”
He outlined the overall approach to resource efficient building services:
- Design out the demand for services (passive design).
- Challenge the brief and use best practice design calculations.
- Optimise system design.
- Consider alternative materials.
- Select resource efficient equipment.
- Consider reusing existing systems (refurbishment).
This should especially and specifically apply to: (the opportunities for) the heating sector; cooling sector; ventilation sector; and 3D printing of components. Such “bits of kit” to this end are a “game changer”. “Old rules of thumb are outdated!”
Circular economy challenges & needs – a contractor perspective – Andrew Kinsey, Mace
Andrew asked if the circular economy was just a “fancy word for recycling?”.
He quoted the UKCG (now BuildUK) CE Survey 2015 – Biggest Barriers to implementing Circular Economy: which considers: contract requirements; bringing together the supply chain; financial issues; business culture; and technical issues.
Andrew highlighted some “people” challenges:
- Do nothing much (legal minimum).
- Do as little as necessary.
- Do things because they make sense.
- Do it because you want to be a leader.
He asked if the industry was risk averse? Adding: it’s a “vicious circle of blame” between the designers and constructors; developers; investors; and owners or end users and is akin to the “chicken and the egg”. How can we break this circle of blame and the “virtuous circles”? Clients, designers and contractors can’t specify circular economy goods and services if nobody supplies them. Better transparency is needed.
He explained that a “swap shop” of office furniture has been created to make carbon savings – taking material from one place for another which has a short supply chain. This includes a range of office furniture – especially flat-packed desks have been made out of cardboard which can be recycled. In the last three years – Mace projects of reused materials have saved £520,000 = CO2 or 287 tonnes.
Andrew said that we need to create a desire and need to innovate, but this weighs down on profit margins. He asked “how do we solve the innovation conundrum – an industry that needs innovation yet is short of money to invest?”