• Jul 3, 2024

Laying a Strong Foundation for the Circular Built Environment in Canada

Guest blog by Dwayne Torrey, Director, Construction and Infrastructure Standards, CSA Group

As discussed in our previous article, many barriers hinder the adoption of circular economy approaches in the construction sector, including lack of awareness, transitional costs, industry fragmentation, supply chain complexities, and inconsistent regulation. Outlining a strategic framework for a circular built environment (CBE) in Canada can serve as a first step in the transition toward more sustainable construction practices. CSA Group’s latest research outlines such a framework that can help mobilize the industry to embrace circularity.

A strategic framework for future action

While examples of initiatives and programs that help remove obstacles on the path toward circularity are encouraging, a broad, industry-wide transition to CBE remains a complex challenge. The traditional linear ‘take-make-waste’ model is deeply embedded in industry supply chains, construction techniques, and mindsets. Well-coordinated actions are needed to move the needle. These actions should involve all industry participants – from owners, developers, architects, engineers, and builders who contribute directly by making building decisions (i.e., the central and direct actors), to those who can help enable change (i.e., the enabling actors), such as investors, governments, industry associations, non-profits, insurance companies, and standards development organizations.

A strategic framework can serve as a first step toward developing a more specific action plan. A new CSA Group research report, entitled The Circular Built Environment in Canada: A Strategic Framework for Future Action, proposes a three-stage approach designed to inspire industry participants to adopt and implement the elements of CBE.

Stage 1: Preconditions

In the first stage, the focus is on reducing frictions and barriers that can be caused by the lack of familiarity with CBE concepts, and various regulatory and technical misalignments. The enabling actors are expected to play a big role in these efforts, as they can help reduce the systemic barriers and make it easier for central and direct actors to create change. Enabling actors are in a position to develop supportive policy and standards, provide incentives for circular building projects, and create the enabling environment.

Stage 2: Project Activities

The second stage provides an opportunity to test circular methods and approaches in pilot projects. In this stage, owners and developers can gain more knowledge about circular buildings. At the same time, architects and engineers can learn how to design buildings that meet circularity standards and communicate their design qualities and values.

Stage 3: Post Activities

Celebrating and promoting circular building projects is central to the third stage. This can motivate more actors to replicate circular practices and innovations.

Repeating these stages over time will allow the construction sector to build incrementally on past successes and scale, bring in more and more actors, and, ultimately, lead to the emergence of a broadly adopted CBE.

The process for mobilizing systems changes for a circular built environment. Image source: CSA Group
Mobilizing action in the future

This new CSA Group report is the output from the second phase of a three-phased initiative to develop a strategic plan for advancing circular economy strategies and practices within Canada’s construction and real estate sectors – an initiative co-led by CSA Group and Circular Economy Leadership Canada (CELC).

Building awareness about circular construction methods, educating industry participants about the benefits they can gain by using them, and sharing and celebrating successful projects can encourage more organizations and industry professionals to shift their practices towards circularity.

CSA Group is actively supporting these initiatives through its research, standards development, education, and advocacy. Future research can more deeply investigate the role of information and communication technologies in the CBE transition, explore the potential roles of other actors in the system and the nuances of relationships and communication channels between actors in the system, as well as how standards development organizations and government bodies can embed CBE experts into the code and standards development. Read the full research report to learn more.


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