Which digital technologies are making the difference in developing a more circular construction economy in the future?

Digitisation and sustainability transitions are inextricably linked. What would be the best role for government to ensure digitisation will contribute to the transition towards a sustainable society? The Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure is in the process of preparing an advice that will touch upon this question. As part of the preparatory process, the Rli commissioned a series of essays. Today, an essay on the role of technology in making a difference in developing a more circular construction economy is published.

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). Hence, the construction sector is a key sector in making the sustainability transition.

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, the authors of the paper 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 first presents 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 the 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. Read More