Circularity in the Construction industry: Good intentions aren’t enough

Mirella Vitale
Mirella Vitale
May 14, 2019

Learn more about the true extent of circular construction in Europe.

Excavator digging through demolished building

Every year, the building sector consumes up to 42 billion tonnes of resource materials to build homes, workplaces, schools and other structures and sends another 1-2 billion tonnes of waste - one-third of the global total - to landfills.

As important as infrastructure is, the building sector has a heavy impact on the planet that needs to be reduced. One concept gaining more attention is circularity.

Growth without waste

The idea of a circular construction sector is built on an economic model that aims to use products for as long as possible and reduce waste — via re-use and recycling — while boosting social, economic growth and prosperity.

Across Europe, architects consider the re-use of materials by other users and the recycling of waste the primary qualities of a circular construction economy. One third of them even expect to achieve a fully circular construction economy by 2030.

Converting that expectation into action on the job is proving difficult so far, since circularity is only taken into account in 22 percent of architectural projects. Moreover, the majority of project owners, including governments have yet to even make requests for circular construction from architects.

Circularity is only considered in

of architectural projects

Awareness + policy = change

Underlining this point, 84 percent of the architects surveyed agree that circularity will only succeed if there is a shift in the mindset of the construction industry. A large number of them also recognise that their national governments play a huge role in driving the building sector towards a circular construction economy.

The above means that we see there is a lot of talk about circular construction in Europe but relatively little action: only one-fifth of architectural projects take circularity into consideration. 

It’s an indication that changing to a circular construction economy is a challenge that will require more awareness of the opportunities and benefits, a committed effort from the building sector, plus policy and legislative support at the local, regional, national, and even global level if we are going to succeed. 

A less wasteful society should be everyone’s goal and bringing circularity to the building sector is an important step.



1. USP Marketing Consultancy, 2019, “European Architectural Barometer – Q4 2018”


Hungry for more?