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Circular economy in the Dutch construction sector : A perspective for the market and government

Beleidsverkenning circulaire economie in de bouw

Synopsis

The construction sector wishes, together with the government, to develop a vision on the high-quality use and reuse of materials in a circular economy. It is important that this vision receives wide government support and applies for an extended period of time. There is also the need to pre-finance the demolition of structures and the reuse of materials and construction elements, as is already the case for cars and refrigerators. This will make it attractive to optimally reuse materials. Therefore, it is important to consider during the design and reuse how elements of a building can be reused in multiple cycles.

This was shown by an exploratory project carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and Rijkswaterstaat for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment (IenM), together with stakeholders in the construction sector. In the Netherlands, a large proportion of all construction and demolition waste is recycled into foundation material for roads, new residential areas and industrial estates. However, buildings are hardly ever made from recycled products. This could change, because the market for foundation materials is slowly becoming saturated, which could be an incentive to reuse materials in other ways.

The challenge is to design buildings in such a way that all of the materials in them are suitable for high-quality reuse. However, the long life of building structures - 50 to 100 years - makes it difficult to determine how the materials will be dealt with in several decades' time. Experience of new design and assessment methods can be gained through innovative learning projects. In addition, stakeholders want to have a clear method to assess the 'environmental performance' of a building over multiple life cycles. In the Netherlands, the environmental performance of a building is already measured as standard over a single cycle.

The circular economy arises if relevant companies and organisations in the construction sector work together. The government is, as a commissioning party, of course a participant and can therefore provide targeted help to speed up this process and remove any legislative bottlenecks.
 

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