top of page


“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” Kenneth Boulding, 1973

Focus on Circularity

Sustainability and a Circular Construction Industry

The World Economic Forum Risk Report of 2021 outlines (a) climate action failure, (b) human environmental damage, (c) a natural resources crisis and (d) the increase in extreme weather events as the most likely long-term risks for societies around the globe [1]. Additionally, the latest assessment report from the IPCC highlights the importance of ramping up our collective efforts for rapid and sustained reduction in greenhouse gases [2].

The construction sector consumes 50% of all extracted materials, produces 35% of all waste and emits up to 12% of total national greenhouse gas emissions [3] within the EU. Consequently, construction is considered a key value chain in the EU’s ambitious plan to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050 [4]. Whereas climate-neutrality poses several challenges for the built environment, it presents an abundance of opportunities such as the development of new infrastructure and the renovation of up to 35 million buildings until 2030 [5].

As a result of the EU’s Green Deal [4], a new landscape is emerging that will fundamentally change the construction ecosystem. The EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance incentivizes investors and developers to aim for environmentally sustainable projects [6]. Similarly, authorities and public investors are increasingly under pressure to follow green public procurement schemes [7], [8]. Additionally, a revision of the Construction Product Regulation [9] including the possible introduction of recycled content requirements [10] mandates the development of material recovery routes and processes. Finally, the Level(s) framework [11] paves the way for the assessment and reporting on the sustainability performance of buildings and thus requires contractors and operators to plan, build, maintain and operate buildings and infrastructures with respect to various social and environmental aspects.

Next to measuring carbon, material, water, health and comfort and climate change impact of buildings [11], the development of material recovery routes and processes are key in making the construction industry more resource-efficient and climate-neutral in the long term [3]. Since circularity is considered vital by authorities [3], [12], practitioners [13]–[15] and scholars [16], [17] alike for the transition towards a carbon-neutral construction sector, ENCORD has dedicated the year 2021 and 2022 to the development of a Circular Construction Framework. Developing circular business models and solutions that are compliant with new regulations will require a cooperative approach from partners throughout the ecosystem. In order to tackle the complex task ahead, the sustainability WG is engaging specialist from the four other working groups in the process and will present the result in a report at the beginning of 2023. Moreover, a revision of the CO2 Measurement Protocol, developed by ENCORD 10 years ago, is on the future agenda of the sustainability WG.


[1] M. McLennan and S. Group, ‘The Global Risks Report 2021 16th Edition’, p. 97.

[2] V. Masson-Delmotte et al., Eds., Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, 2021.

[3] ‘EUR-Lex - 52020DC0098 - EN - EUR-Lex’. (accessed Aug. 16, 2021).

[4] ‘What is the European Green Deal?’, European Commission - European Commission. (accessed Aug. 13, 2021).

[5]‘EUR-Lex - 52020DC0662 - EN - EUR-Lex’. (accessed Aug. 16, 2021).

[6] Regulation (EU) 2020/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2020 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment, and amending Regulation (EU) 2019/2088 (Text with EEA relevance), vol. 198. 2020. Accessed: Apr. 19, 2021. [Online]. Available:

[7] ‘Green Public Procurement - Environment - European Commission’. (accessed Aug. 16, 2021).

[8] K. Pouikli, ‘Towards mandatory Green Public Procurement (GPP) requirements under the EU Green Deal: reconsidering the role of public procurement as an environmental policy tool’,ERA Forum, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 699–721, Jan. 2021, doi: 10.1007/s12027-020-00635-5.

[9] Construction Products Regulation (CPR)’, Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs - European Commission, Jul. 05, 2016. (accessed Aug. 17, 2021).

[10] ‘EUR-Lex - 52021DC0252 - EN - EUR-Lex’. (accessed Aug. 17, 2021).

[11] ‘Level(s)’. (accessed Apr. 19, 2021).

[12] ‘Circular Economy - Principles for Building Design’. Accessed: Aug. 17, 2021. [Online]. Available:

[13] ‘Loi Économie circulaire : Le bâtiment en première ligne : FFB’. (accessed Aug. 17, 2021).

[14] ‘Positionspapier der Deutschen Bauindustrie zur Schaffung eines einheitlichen, konsistenten Regelwerkes für mineralische Bauabfälle und Bodenaushub: BAUABFALLVERWERTUNGSGESETZ’, p. 4.

[15] ‘ABFALLRECHTLICHE HINWEISE Fragen und Antworten zur Vergabe und Vergütung von Entsorgungsleistungen im Straßen- und Tiefbau’, Aug. 2021. [Online]. Available:

[16] Z. Bao and W. Lu, ‘Developing efficient circularity for construction and demolition waste management in fast emerging economies: Lessons learned from Shenzhen, China’, Sci. Total Environ., vol. 724, p. 138264, Jul. 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138264.

[17] K. T. Adams, M. Osmani, T. Thorpe, and J. Thornback, ‘Circular economy in construction: current awareness, challenges and enablers’,Proc. Inst. Civ. Eng. - Waste Resour. Manag., vol. 170, no. 1, pp. 15–24, Feb. 2017, doi: 10.1680/jwarm.16.00011.

bottom of page