The construction industry is no longer waiting for the future to implement best practice when it comes to sustainability. It simply can’t. However, to transform an entire industry will require considerable navigation of not only the productivity challenges which have troubled construction for some time – but also the regulatory drivers that are already forcing change.
In a previous blog, we touched on the concept of the circular economy and how it is a potentially very practical solution to some of the issues when it comes to recycling materials – in particular, concrete. This is to enable the construction industry to move towards a more eco-conscious approach, with greater consideration of how to ‘build green’.
So, what is the circular economy?
Our current, linear economy takes natural resources, makes things, then disposes of them as waste.
But the circular economy is about using resources and materials with ever-increasing efficiency. It aims to make sure everything we create can be used for as long as possible and then be recycled or upcycled.
In many ways, the circular economy mimics nature’s incredible ability to continually refresh and replenish itself, when left to do so. The benefit of course is that it is an infinitely self-sustaining system.
At the core of the circular economy, and a key way in which the government regulates for change, is the concept of ‘product stewardship.’ Product stewardship is about everyone – manufacturers, importers, retailers, and consumers alike – taking responsibility for the end life of a product. It aims to reduce waste, which can be done through better product design which then leads to a longer life for the product or an easier recycling process.
Keeping it simple: A practical approach to sustainability
Beyond product stewardship, the practical sustainability approach is an acceptance that construction is good for the economy, society and that it helps to improve lives. Further to this, concrete still remains the best material available to deliver those benefits, particularly in comparison to other common building materials, such as steel, asphalt and plasterboard. This is because it is the least energy intensive.
It is also noted that a surge for timber will only increase the depletion of the world’s forests. So practical sustainability acknowledges that each sector is unique, and we can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
In our industry, the most practical approach to meeting the sustainability challenge is the circular economy framework, of which there is growing evidence that the circular economy model can be used to great effect in the construction industry – and the manufacture of our sustainable concrete products are the perfect example of this.
We have incorporated many of the principles of the circular economy into our products. By diverting unused wet concrete from landfill, we reduce this waste stream. We turn that recycled concrete into interlocking concrete blocks which are useful across a wide range of civil, structural and residential applications.
Those blocks can be reconfigured without needing destructive dismantling when things change, reducing another potential waste stream. Finally, the blocks can also be returned to Envirocon through our Buyback Guarantee if they’re no longer needed, to be used again by someone else.
This circular economy approach actually provides business value at each stage of the product lifecycle as well. The blocks are cheaper to produce using waste concrete, resulting in a lower cost to customers. And because of the Buyback Guarantee, they can be sold at the end of their use, again reducing their overall cost to the end user.
So, what must be further explored are other materials that can be reused or recycled, in order to continue to reduce construction waste. The opportunity is there, as are the compelling reasons to do so.