Consistent procurement critical to achieve circular construction, report claims

A collective, industry-led approach to procurement in the development of major infrastructure projects across the UK would help achieve a circular economy in the construction sector, a new report from a cross-sector group has found.

The white paper published today (20 October) by the Major Infrastructure – Resource Optimisation Group (MI-ROG) states that embedded circular principles in infrastructure projects would generate positive environmental impacts and help build greater resilience in supply chains.

The group, led by construction firm AECOM, recommends that infrastructure developers include procurement criteria focused on the circular economy from the outset of projects – a  vital period which provides the “greatest opportunities” to deliver optimal cost efficiencies, waste and carbon reductions.

AECOM’s sustainability director and MI-ROG chairman Robert Spencer said: “With ambitious new infrastructure projects and major renewal programmes in the pipeline, the UK is in an ideal position to begin its transition to the circular economy. Procurement is a critical stage of this process, but existing technical standards can stifle innovation.”

‘Whole-life value’

The report cites cross-sector partnerships and collective leadership as key to delivering procurement policies which drive the circular transition. Organisations should work together to develop a consistent approach to procurement across the UK’s pipeline of major infrastructure projects, MI-ROG suggests.

“There are ample opportunities to identify changes in procurement procedures, but mainstreaming circular economy principles will only be achieved through cross-sector collaboration,” Spencer added.

A “whole-life-value” approach of materials throughout the procurement process should be considered, the report states, but it also recognises that cross-sector evaluations of new solutions will be necessary before large infrastructure schemes take on the risk of new materials.

The paper goes on to highlight the importance of effective engagements between procurement teams and project managers, as well as between operators and suppliers, to accelerate the adoption of circular economy principles early in the project lifecycle. Uptake could be encouraged through evaluation processes that reward suppliers that demonstrate circular economy approaches, the report recommends.

Collaborative jump

It is generally considered that an industry-wide resolution to sharing ideas and resources will enable the circular economy to become mainstream within the construction sector, as with other major industries.

Yesterday (19 October), construction materials supplier Aggregate Industries told edie that the whole sector must continue to build trust, share best-practice sustainability approaches in order to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon, resource-efficient industry.

The UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) sustainability officer also recently claimed that collaboration within the industry is crucial to ensuring that businesses can embed best-practice and overcome barriers to applying circular economy principles to the built environment.

The majority of European countries have listed construction and demolition waste as key priority materials that need to be focused on in the transition to a circular economy.

MI-ROG was founded by AECOM in 2013 as a forum for the UK’s infrastructure operators to collaborate across the circular economy theme and to meet the challenge of delivering major infrastructure in a constrained economy. Members include senior representatives of Anglian Water, Centrica, EDF Energy, the Environment Agency, Heathrow Airport, Highways England, HS2, National Grid, Network Rail, Thames Tideway Tunnel and United Utilities.  

edie’s green buildings month

The month of October sees edie shift the editorial spotlight from energy efficiency to green buildings. From new-builds to retrofits; construction design to building controls, this month of exclusive content will highlight the array of options available to improve the performance of buildings.

Stay tuned for green building-focused news stories, in-depth features and a special Sustainable Business Covered podcast episode which will investigate the latest techniques, the best management systems and the different steps UK businesses can take to increase the efficiency of their building stock and drive environmental performance.

George Ogleby

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