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Circularity in construction is gaining importance, but it is not well known yet

Within the construction industry sustainability is becoming more important every day, as the demand from principals for sustainability in construction has been growing. Almost three quarters of European architects experience principals of projects demanding for sustainability in construction projects already. There has been an evolvement over years, and the number of architects that are asked for sustainability in their projects is increasing.

The term sustainability has become a well-known concept in construction, and the understanding of the concept has increased. Circularity, another concept that is currently being discussed in the construction industry, is less known among architects, and principals of construction projects do not ask for circularity that often yet. Architects have different understandings of the concept and big differences can be seen per country. In the European Architectural Barometer, USP Marketing Consultancy has asked 1,400 architects in eight European countries about their expectations regarding the development of circular and sustainable construction methods. 

Large share of architects experience demand for sustainability, circularity is less asked for

Looking at the demand for sustainability from principals, some interesting results were found and differences are seen per country. The Netherlands and Belgium are the leading countries when it comes to investments in sustainability. Of all countries, principals in France ask the most for sustainability but the willingness to invest is relatively low. Architects in Poland experience a lot less demand for sustainability in projects, and according to Polish architects more than half of the principals do not ask for sustainable solutions at all. 
When it comes to circularity, the industry is clearly still at the beginning of the implementation of a different way of designing and constructing buildings. There is still a relatively low demand for circularity in projects. In general, less than a third of the architects already experience that principals ask for circularity in construction projects. Interestingly, it is in the Southern European countries (Spain and Italy) that circularity is already taken into account in construction projects the most. When looking at the adoption of other big trends within the construction industry, like BIM or prefab, these countries usually stay a little behind. 

Understanding of concepts

While sustainability has become a well-known concept, circularity is still relatively unknown. When it comes to defining the concept of sustainability, architects are quite unanimous. Characteristics like ‘energy neutral’ and ‘using sustainable materials’ are mentioned often in all countries. This means that the concept of sustainability is evolving from being only material related – good for our planet and natural resources – to also being related to the broader topic of making our existing building stock more energy efficient. With a rising demand from principals, it seems that the market is understanding the importance of sustainability, and that sustainability is no longer only a vague buzzing concept.

The knowledge of circularity in various countries differs greatly. While in Italy circularity is taken into account in many projects already, it also seems that they have a relatively flat understanding of the concept. There, it is mainly about limiting waste and recycling waste, one of the first stages of a circular economy. Although recycling of waste is mentioned in many countries, it is interesting to see that in other countries, such as the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium, the majority already thinks of the re-use of materials as well. Recycling of waste is seen as one of the first stages of circular construction, while the re-use of materials already goes a step further.
It seems that although in a lot of projects in Italy circularity is already taken into account, this is only done in a limited way since it mainly concerns limiting waste and recycling waste. Other countries, such as Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, do seem to have a more specific understanding of the topic because they not only take into account these first aspects, but already think of the re-use of materials and, to a lesser extent, also integrate the possible future transformation of buildings in their initial designs. 

About the European Architectural Barometer

The European Architectural Barometer is a study by USP Marketing Consultancy, which is based on 5,400 successful interviews with architects in eight European countries annually. Every quarter, a report is published covering a specific topic like BIM, prefabrication, media orientation of architects, and many more. The report also provides future building volume predictions, based on the orderbook development of architects and other economic indicators in the construction sector.