Circularity in the spotlight at Brussels BAMB final event

John Churchill
February 5, 2019

The building sector consumes half of global materials and produces a third of global waste each year. At the Buildings as Material Banks final event, ROCKWOOL and other stakeholders discuss ways to shift to a circular building sector.


What if one day we could reuse the 330,000 square metres of concrete and all the other materials inside the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to make new products

It’s the idea behind a circular economy, one with no waste where products are designed and optimised for repeated reuse, and it’s the ambition for attendees at the Buildings as Material Banks (BAMB2020) three-day conference in Brussels today.

Started in 2015, the BAMB is a part of EU Horizon 2020, the EU’s largest research and innovation programme. By helping develop different policy proposals and tools like Materials Passports, Reversible Building Design, Circular Building Assessments with business cases that demonstrate the value of each, the project aim has been to enable a shift to a circular building sector. 

“The BAMB project has shown that reversible and circular buildings are a reality,” says Caroline Henrotay, the project manager and technical coordinator. “Based on prototyping results and the realization of the pilot project, we have demonstrated that the BAMB tools and methodologies have enabled reducing construction and demolition waste by 75-90% as well as a reduction in GHG emissions and the use of virgin resources. However, the transition towards a circular economy will only be possible if all stakeholders from the entire value network embrace a long-term integrated and circular vision.” 

The road to circularity is long

A report released on 22 January at Davos at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) illustrates the size of the challenge. The Circularity Gap Report 2019, produced by Circle Economy, finds that “only 9 percent of the 92.8 billion tonnes of minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass that enter the economy are re-used annually.” 

The “built environment” consumes 50 percent of global materials every year, the report finds. Meanwhile, it is also responsible for one-third of global waste, according to the European Commission. 

“The world needs to shift to a circular business model and reports like Gap make that clear. For business, it just makes sense. If companies waste less, our costs go down and our profits go up,” says Agnes Schuurmans, Public Affairs manager at ROCKWOOL Group.

Among other efforts in this area, ROCKWOOL has asked Circle Economy to critically review the circularity gap in its value chain. The results are expected later this year.

Garbage…or gold? 

Attendees at BAMB agree that the value in the building materials being thrown away is enormous. And organisations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, WEF, Accenture, McKinsey, Harvard Business Review and others confirm the potential economic, social and environmental benefits of transitioning to a circular economy are measured in the billions and trillions of dollars. 

Projects like BAMB are a good start for developing and sharing ideas for how to realise that value, says Schuurmans, who looks forward to further implementation of the concepts by all stakeholders. 

“Like many other companies, we continuously work to improve our sustainability performance,” says Schuurmans. “Today up to 50 percent of the raw material used in our products is already recycled. We offer recycling services for our products in many of the countries where we operate and we have a goal to reach 30 countries by 2030,” she says. “So we’re taking part in the shift. Shifting every industry into a circular system, that is the formidable and exciting challenge we face.”