Construction moves towards a new circular and sustainable model

The construction sector is committed to changing the linear economic model in force until now –based on the extraction of natural resources, mass production and the indiscriminate generation of waste– towards the new circular economy, a model of production and consumption based on sustainability, reuse and minimization of waste.

09 October 2022 Sunday 23:44
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Construction moves towards a new circular and sustainable model

The construction sector is committed to changing the linear economic model in force until now –based on the extraction of natural resources, mass production and the indiscriminate generation of waste– towards the new circular economy, a model of production and consumption based on sustainability, reuse and minimization of waste. This commitment is demonstrated not only with declarations of principles and legislative changes, but also with specific actions, such as those already being carried out in Spain.

This was stated by the experts participating in the 2nd Circular Construction Forum of Grupo Construcía and La Vanguardia, held in Barcelona with the attendance of a hundred people and live streaming.

The transformation process underway in the construction and building sector must also consider the challenge of climate change, from the perspective of maximum collaboration between the public sector, the 18 professionals from the world of investment, consulting in circular economy, the companies, institutions and universities participating in this forum.

At the opening of the event, Enric Sierra, deputy director of La Vanguardia, recalled that the climate crisis worries "companies, administrations and citizens in general". "The economy is not at odds with ecology, they must be accompanied because that will generate opportunities," he stressed.

Arturo Fernández, co-CEO of Grupo Construcía, described the current moment as “crucial”. "We are changing from a linear model to a circular model and we find ourselves immersed in a context full of uncertainties." To face these challenges, he assured him, “a circular revolution is essential, a process that forces us to rethink our values, our behaviors; and it reaches the products we are manufacturing, our strategies, with the aim of facing all threats and transforming them into opportunities, to have more resilient companies”.

In this change of model, "the commitment of all parties is essential: public administration, private sector, professionals and we cannot forget the knowledge managers, such as universities and professional associations", stressed Arturo Fernández, to conclude that the "circular revolution ” offers new opportunities for companies, for people and to “transmit the natural capital that the planet has given us to future generations”.

At the opening of the event, Marc Sanglas, general director of Environmental Quality and Climate Change of the Generalitat, also highlighted the importance of public-private collaboration to develop the circular economy. Sanglas indicated that it is necessary to accelerate this process of change and recalled, in this sense, the creation of the Catalonia Circular Observatory, a circular economy innovation hub in Catalonia, and the open call ProAcció Green, as well as the need to modify the legislation to favor the circular economy.

In the first of the three debates organized in this forum, Cástor González, CEO of Circular Capital, stressed that, "in the construction sector, the circular economy helps reduce risks in the future value of the assets that are developed" . Antoni Macià, Director of Investments at Suma Capital, indicated in this initial session that there is a great demand to invest in sustainability. Regarding the profitability of these investments, he was blunt: “it is clearly profitable to invest in the circular economy, it must be sustainable”.

For Carlos Madrid, CEO of the Europa Center, "the economy cannot be anything other than circular, there is no turning back" and to facilitate the process he called for "closer public-private collaboration than there has been until now". The same session gave the opportunity for Howard Pierce, partner of Urban Input, to explain that "circularity can extend the life of building components and squeeze the maximum value out of them, even giving them a value at the end of their life".

Soly Sakal, CEO of Rhombus, added the importance of sustainability being present "from the first moment, from product design". "If you have a building designed from the beginning for people, thinking about health, we are on the right track," she indicated.

The second of the forum sessions focused on the user experience of buildings, the impact of regulations and the need to protect the value of buildings through sustainability.

Ricardo Blanco, Regional Sales Manager of HILTI, highlighted that his company has achieved the Great Place to Work seal, number 12 in Spain "thanks to sustainability, well-being, the work environment, comfort and the spaces that our employees enjoy".

Toni Capella, Climate change partner

For her part, Dolors Jiménez, Territorial Director of Catalonia at Gesvalt, emphasized that "the great challenge is the renovation of the real estate park, the rehabilitation". "Your securities are more liquid when the buildings are green," she said.

"A company is no longer only identified by the product or service it markets, but by its impact on society," said Cristina Sendra, technical director of Studies at the EIG consultancy. While Austin Wood, Director of Corporate Development

The transformation of the construction and real estate sector towards circularity is giving way to new products, companies and business models. The third discussion table was a sample of various success stories in the application of the circular economy to architecture, construction materials, business models of companies. To achieve better and more versatile buildings, Teresa Batlle, architect and co-founder of Picharchitects/Pich-Aguilera pointed out the need to work in a committed manner in all phases of construction. “In circular economy, the project is the key”, but also “we must work in a more collaborative way from the beginning; our service does not end when the work is delivered, we acquire a commitment for the entire life cycle of the building” .

Ignacio Gómez CEO of MUT Agency and co-founder of Dear Planet, a company from which Grupo Construcía wants to revolutionize the world of ephemeral constructions such as stands, applying the circular economy to their design and construction. “We have to design with the planet in mind. The first thing is the design, when you design you have to think about the limitations of materials and what is going to happen next with those materials. We attach great importance to design, to the choice of certified materials that do not generate toxicities. (…) Whoever is not in the circularity is left out of the game”, Ignacio Gómez sentenced.

Pol Merino, Managing Director of Honext, a spin-off company from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) that converts cellulose waste into a product for construction, shared his experience as a circular company and pointed out that currently "there are very few materials at a global level that apply circularity”. "It is important to understand the environmental impact of materials" claimed Pol Merino.

Salvi Plaja, Director of Design and Sustainability at Simon, recalled that this centennial and at the same time innovative company has had as its motto the manufacture of products that last over time, a way of betting on sustainability. In addition, "if we do not make circularity accessible to our customers, the planet will hardly be."

Another example of a commitment to sustainability and the economy is the Consorci de la Zona Franca, as explained in this session by Beatriz Tena, attached to the direction of the Urban Planning Area of ​​this entity. In addition to the long tradition in the reuse of materials and waste in the Zona Franca, Beatriz Tena presented good practices in the construction and management of buildings such as Factory, based on "high sustainability criteria with which they intend to boost the economy of Barcelona ”. In a step towards the future, the Consorci is working on the event focused on the new economy called BNEW.

At the closing of the second edition of this forum, Daniel Crespo, rector of the UPC, highlighted the historical vocation of this institution to collaborate with the business sector in aspects such as technological innovation. At the present time, indicated the rector, "investment in the circular economy is the best business we can imagine because it is for those who carry it out and also for society". Professor Crespo reiterated that also in this section "the university can act as another lever in the process of circularity" and ended his intervention by sharing the reminder that "We do not have planet B".



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