14 APRIL 2021

First survey into material re-use unveils appetite to boost circular economy practices

New research launched by Grosvenor today shows that just 24% of built environment firms including architects, developers, construction, contractor and demolition firms have policies specifying material re-use targets.

The building and construction sector uses half of all new resources and generates more than a third of all waste in the EU*. To adapt buildings to new uses and meet the needs of growing populations without over exploiting natural resources, circular economy principles must be adopted at scale.

In February 2021, Grosvenor surveyed 120 professionals involved in the life cycle of buildings to understand the prevalence of material re-use and opportunities to scale circular economy practices.

88% of respondents stated their firms have an environmental sustainability policy. Of these, only 27% have a construction waste target that specified material re-use goals and 17% had no target to reduce construction waste at all.

However, 55% of participants have been involved in projects where materials from elsewhere were re-used and 62% said they are currently working on projects that could contribute materials into a second-hand market. 52% said they would be willing to receive materials in a current project.

Key barriers to supplying materials included concerns over liability, lack of a material re-use network and storage and access issues. The most cited obstacles to re-using materials included quality and consistency of materials, insurance, risk and lack of certainty over availability of materials.

Grosvenor is seeking to boost circular economy practices in the built environment by trialling a second-hand market for materials in Central London.  In partnership with Elliott Wood, Orms, ARUP and HETA, Grosvenor is also increasing opportunities for learning and knowledge sharing. The first step is a range of guides addressing the key barriers identified in the research.

Those wishing to join the network can email material.reuse@grosvenor.com. Click here to read the full findings of the survey and access the first guide published Full Circle to Re-use by Elliott Wood.

Steve Gilchrist, Project Director, Grosvenor commented: "Material re-use is the next chapter in sustainable design and construction. In London every year hundreds of buildings are designed, but to make way for them many must also be demolished - often this happens without due attention paid to the benefits of material re-use.

“With over half of respondents saying they could contribute or receive second-hand materials right now, our research shows that there is huge appetite to increase circular economy practices. Our goal is to increase the profile of re-use in design and construction and to develop an efficient market for second-hand materials in our capital.”

Gary Elliott, Founder and Chief Executive of Elliott Wood, added: “The re-use of second-hand construction materials is the only way forward. The industry has to establish a viable second-hand market which deals with storage, cataloguing and recertification. This is only in its infancy but with the right investment and government support will, we believe, become the norm.”

Colin McColl, Director, Orms commented: “80% of today’s building stock will still exist in 2050 and it is critical that these are included in the industry conversation around re-use and circularity if we are to meet net zero ambitions. Therefore, thoughtful deconstruction and reuse needs consideration as part of a new approach to development, that challenges traditional appraisals and views buildings differently, as material banks.”

Lucy Rees, Sustainability Advisor at UKGBC said: “Reusing building materials is critical to reducing waste and cutting carbon. But to do this successfully, our industry needs to identify and overcome the existing barriers that are blocking the widespread uptake of material reuse in our industry. Grosvenor’s proactive approach to identifying and addressing some of these barriers is both innovative and exciting. We are pleased to see so many UKGBC members already contributing to this project, and highly support and encourage others to join the network and help create a more circular built environment.”

* Source: https://www.bamb2020.eu/ 

About Grosvenor

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Grosvenor is an international organisation whose activities span urban property, food and agtech, rural estate management and support for philanthropic initiatives.

We are a values-led business which represents the Grosvenor family and share a common purpose - to deliver lasting commercial, social and environmental benefit - addressing today’s needs while taking responsibility for those of future generations.  

With a track record of over 340 years, we work to improve urban property and places in many of the world’s leading cities, promoting sustainability within the built environment and enhancing the wellbeing of customers and communities. 

Our UK property business supports c1,000 businesses and tens of thousands of residents and workers across London’s West End each day. We also invest in, create and manage sustainable neighbourhoods in Liverpool and across England. As a 1.5oC aligned company, pioneering change and new ways of thinking about property we aim to ensure our places benefit both people and the planet over the long term.

Rachel Garstang

Head of Corporate Communications & Stakeholder Engagement Grosvenor

+44 (0)20 7312 2341 ext.6957

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