The digital potential in creating a circular construction economy

P.W.C. Chan, C.E.L. De Wolf, A. Koutamanis

Research output: Other contributionProfessional


Globally, the challenge of accelerating sustainable transitions to ensure the continued thriving of the human population, natural environment and world economy is well-acknowledged. In the Netherlands ambitious targets have been set to achieve 55% emission reduction when compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and, in line with the European Green Deal, to move towards a climate-neutral society where economic growth is decoupled from environmental degradation and resource use.

A key sector that is critical in making this transition is the construction sector. According to the latest Circularity Gap Report, while the construction and maintenance of housing, offices, roads and other infrastructure represent the third largest resource footprint in the Netherlands (at 32 million tonnes), the sector also accounts for the highest level of raw material consumption across all sectors (at nearly 29 million tonnes). Scenarios for creating a more circular construction economy have to date included two main strategies – calls for zero demolition and radical changes in the ways we produce buildings.

In this paper, we consider these scenarios and explore the potential for digital technologies to make a difference in developing a more circular construction economy in the future. In what follows, the paper will first present a brief overview of current achievements to introduce circularity in construction. This highlights three key accomplishments, including the drive to document and inventorise building materials that can be recovered, reused and recycled; the development of prototypes, pilots and processes for circularity with a strong focus on designing for deconstruction, and; the creation of knowledge sharing platforms to build a network of actors to take forward lessons learnt on circular building processes. Thereafter, the second part of this paper will focus on identifying the possibilities and current problems faced with using digital technologies to support efforts to create a more circular construction economy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2021


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