Sarah Clifft

4 min.

8 November 2023

The construction industry is renowned for its significant environmental footprint, characterized by high resource consumption, energy usage, and waste generation. In recent years, there has been a growing realization of the need to adopt sustainable practices to mitigate the negative impact of construction activities on our planet. One key approach that has gained traction in this regard is the concept of the circular economy, which not only promotes resource efficiency but also drives innovation within the construction industry. Additionally, the notion of raw material critical levels is a crucial aspect to consider in this context. In this article, we will explore how the circular economy is fostering innovation in the construction sector while considering the importance of raw material critical levels.

Circular Economy in Construction

The circular economy is a term that has gained considerable visibility of the last decade. It is defined as a holistic and regenerative approach to resource management, aiming to keep products, materials, and resources in use for as long as possible. Resource reuse, recycling, and waste reduction are integrated into this economic model, thereby minimizing the extraction of new raw materials and the disposal of waste. In the context of the construction industry, adopting circular economy principles leads to several innovative practices.

First, sustainable material selection. Circular economy principles encourage the use of sustainable, recycled, or reclaimed building materials. This has led to the development of innovative technologies and practices for sourcing and incorporating these materials into construction projects.

The Circular Economy also promotes modular construction techniques, which involve assembling pre-manufactured components, promote efficient resource use and reduce waste. It is also critical to consider circularity within the end of life stage of constructions. To this effect, the Circular economy principles have given rise to the idea of designing buildings for easy deconstruction and material recovery at the end of their lifecycle. This innovative approach not only reduces waste but also facilitates the reuse of valuable construction materials. The Lyon Catholic University was built entirely on this model, having deconstructed the historic St Paul prison and constructed a campus from the materials recycled from the prison buildings.

Finally, the integration of BIM technology in construction allows for precise planning and optimization of resources. This results in reduced material wastage and energy consumption during construction.



Raw Material Critical Levels

Raw material critical levels are indicators of the vulnerability of a particular resource due to supply and demand imbalances. When certain materials reach critical levels, it becomes imperative to find alternatives and reduce dependence on them. However, with the onset of the #greentransition, the demand for raw materials has increased substantially in order to build new energy sources as part of the European Green Deal. The construction industry relies heavily on finite resources such as sand, cement, and metals and also more advances raw materials to build microchips and other complex products. Circular economy principles play a pivotal role in addressing this issue as they promote resource efficiency use by reusing and recycling materials, so that construction companies can reduce their demand for virgin resources that may be nearing critical levels.

The Circular economy also promotes Innovation in developing alternative materials due to the scarcity of traditional construction materials. Alternative materials such as bamboo, engineered wood, and recycled plastics can alleviate pressure on critical resources and diversify the supply chain.


Durability and longevity of construction materials are a key consideration in this sector and companies strive to find materials which reduce the frequency of replacement and, in turn, the consumption of critical raw materials.


Finally, Circular economy principles aim to minimize construction waste, thus indirectly reducing the demand for new raw materials. This waste reduction is not only cost-effective but also environmentally responsible.


To conclude, the adoption of circular economy principles in the construction industry is a driving force behind innovation and sustainability. By promoting resource efficiency, reusability, and waste reduction, the circular economy is helping the construction sector become eco-friendlier and more resilient to fluctuations in raw material availability. Additionally, considering raw material critical levels is crucial in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry particularly in light of the upcoming CSRD EU regulations which will put companies in the spotlight to defend their ESG stance. By embracing these concepts, the construction industry can not only reduce its environmental impact but also foster innovation in material sourcing, design, and construction techniques, leading to a more sustainable and responsible future.

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