Award-winning research from Bond University has found the construction industry could hinder sustainable development unless it embraces new technologies and strategies to reduce waste and reuse materials.
Applying a circular economy approach would increase competition, drive innovative solutions, and boost the economy, according to the research by Senior Teaching Fellow in Bond’s Comparative Construction Research Centre Bode Ogunmakinde and his colleagues.
The industry could become a key player in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), Dr Ogunmakinde said.
“The construction industry generates vast amounts of waste and has been criticised in the past for hindering sustainable development goals,” he said.
"Australia generated 12.7 million tonnes of construction waste in 2018. When these waste products end up in landfill, they pose risks to human health and biodiversity.
“Our study found that by applying a circular economy approach, the industry could actually play a strong role in increasing sustainable development and that we should be integrating the circular economy into discussions about achieving the UNSDGs.”
The circular economy aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, to be recovered, regenerated, and reused at the end of their life cycle rather than being discarded as waste.
In a circular economy, products and materials are designed for durability, repairability, and recyclability.
“There has been plenty of research on the circular economy’s potential for waste reduction but much less consideration has been given to its relationship to construction waste management and the UNSDGs,” Dr Ogunmakinde said.
“This study fills that gap and provides a framework to guide construction professionals and stakeholders in implementing a circular economy approach across all phases of construction.
“By embracing the circular economy and aligning with the UNSDGs, the construction industry can achieve sustainable development while minimising waste, reducing pollution, and conserving resources. Adoption of new innovative technologies, methods, and strategies by all stakeholders may result in transdisciplinary and transformative change.
“It will benefit both the industry and the planet in the long run.”
The research recently received the 2022 Best Paper Award by Elsevier's Journal of Resources, Conservation and Recycling.