Construction, the circular economy and innovation

2019 Feb Construction, The Circular Economy And Innovation

Our planet is worth protecting.  It is the only one we have, and we are already using more natural resources every year than we can replace.

I do what I can at home to reduce waste, reuse and recycle, and at work as the sustainability and circular construction lead for the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, I am passionate about supporting the 31,000 businesses in the construction and built environment space do the same.


Our industry generates around 50% of all waste generated in Scotland…..that is a LOT of waste from a single industry and very little gets reused or recycled.  It is also the biggest user of materials and creates over half of our carbon emissions when building operation is included.  


As an industry we must take action!  We need to think differently about how we plan, design, construct, operate and then deconstruct our built environment, with building sustainably being treated not just as a priority but as a necessity to reduce the impact on the health of occupants and the environment throughout a building’s lifecycle.  The benefits are a no brainer with cost savings, improved quality, reduced carbon emissions, reduced environmental impact and an enhanced reputation to name a few.


Over the last 12 months I have started to see a real step change in the industry towards sustainability and circular construction, you can now feel the momentum with high profile events such as the Scottish Resources Conference and the Circular Economy Hotspot both shining the spotlight on the Construction Industry. With the implementation of BIM level 2, the increased use of digital technologies and Industry 4.0 there has never been a better time for industry to start their sustainability journey.


More and more industry partners are coming to the Innovation centre not only to discuss how we can support them on this journey through collaborative innovation projects but also to use our factory space where we have a number of pieces of equipment that supports waste reduction and circular thinking. Our masonary casting press can make bricks, blocks and pavers out of potentially recycled materials. Our thermobonding line which makes insulation from any fibrous material which could include wood fibre, factory dust waste from the textile industry or indeed old insulation. Our 3D printing capabilities which is a no waste process, and indeed our offsite manufacturing cell, which not only improves productivity and quality but the strong link between design and manufacture allows material use to be optimised to significantly reduce waste and indeed allow design for deconstruction to be considered.


These organisations are leading the way and are helping to transforming the industry. I am very lucky to be working alongside these companies and other support organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, Zero Waste Scotland, SEPA, Chamber of Commerce, Scottish Natural Heritage and Architecture & Design Scotland to help put Scotland’s construction industry on the map for innovation, circular construction and sustainable building.