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Within construction, up to 70 percent of demolition waste can be used anew. In Czechia, Poland, and Slovenia, however, most of the construction industry’s waste is landfilled. Why? What is missing in the industry?
First of all, what is missing is reliable data on construction resource usage, waste generation and treatment. Numerous times it has been proved that quality of official statistics could be improved. Having this in mind, the official Eurostat numbers for mineral wastes that, apart from soils, constitute the majority of construction sector waste look remarkably positive. Over 90% of mineral waste from construction and demolition in Slovenia and Czechia is being recycled or backfilled, while in Poland this proportion reaches 75%. My subjective expert opinion, is a lot less optimistic. This starts from the very beginning of the construction life-cycle. Technologies used typically do not account for the possibility of construction materials reusage (e.g. modern mortar that enables fast construction process disable the reuse of bricks), or modification of building functionality (e.g. hiding structural elements under panels or facades that started in XX century). The pursuit of short-term profit that manifests itself in decreased durability and faster construction times does not support the reuse of construction materials, elements and structures. In summary, the construction sector found itself in a vicious circle that only a holistic, methodical approach can break. The CirCon4Climate projects aims to fill this gap by offering such a complete methodology, at the same time catering to the construction worker’s needs. This means making it as practical as possible.
When you think about the target countries of your EUKI project Circon4Climate and their construction industries: What combines them? Where are the differences? Is there any kind of “one fits all” approach?
There are some differences between construction industries in Slovenia, Czechia and Poland. For example, the average age and materials used for the building stock. However, these discrepancies stem mostly from the geographical and cultural circumstances inherited from the past. Currently, it is safe to say that by and large, the present linear economic model construction sector operates in uses global value chains with similar technologies and materials being applied in each market. Additionally, the legal framework EU countries operate in, is more or less similar. Both facts imply that we actually can devise similar tools and guidelines for a circular transition, that can be used not only in those three countries but also in the rest of the EU. However, what we have already noticed in the CirCon4Climate project, the approach to actually using those tools in the real world differs in each country. This means that convincing stakeholders to apply circular concept, should be tailored to each market. The use of examples, legal requirements, economic arguments should be adapted to each country. The same applies to with whom to start the discussion. Should it be the investors, developers, architects, general contractors etc. This is why our made-to-measure communication with each market, in the form of workshops, conferences, newsletters, direct contacts, is so important.
Can you already see changes in Czechia, Poland, or Slovenia and their construction industries?
There are slight hints that the construction sector is changing. There are more certified building being constructed, the popularity of building information modeling tools is on the rise, carbon footprint calculations are growing more common. However, although these indicators increase, they are far from becoming the standard in the mentioned countries. Judging by the current measures, it seems that the road ahead is a long one. Yet, one should take into account not only the present state, but the direction we are heading and circumstances we found ourselves in. There is a strong EU regulatory push towards circular construction. Limited material supply and growing demand drive resource prices up. Social transformations necessitate more sustainable consumption choices. These are not changes that will result in a economic model transition overnight. Though, we hope that one day their combined effects will result in a snowball effect of everybody realizing that sustainable construction is the economically efficient choice.