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Circular economy

Rethinking linear consumption

Rethinking linear consumption

Pioneering an end to ‘take, make, dispose’ in the built environment

How can organisations with a stake in the built environment, from city governments to developers, asset managers to construction product manufacturers, reconcile often conflicting demands to deliver economic, environmental and social value from their activities? Redesigning our sector along the lines of a circular economy offers answers to that question - not as a series of bolt-on measures, but as a single coherent framework for managing resources and creating value.

What is the circular economy?

A circular economy is an economy that creates value from natural resources in new ways, coupling growth to positive environmental and social outcomes. It does this using new business models, design principles and logistics strategies which deliver against three key principles:

  1. Design out waste and pollution wherever possible

  2. Keep products and materials in use for as long as possible

  3. Regenerate natural systems

Explaining the Circular Economy and How Society Can Re-think Progress by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
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How do we move towards a circular economy within the built environment?

In our report ‘Circular Economy and the Built Environment’, we made a number of recommendations for the sector including:

  • Developing a circular economy vision and circular economy business models 

  • Collaboration – bringing together the industry and clients to help identify joint challenges and complementary expertise

  • Educate and raise awareness – familiarising staff, clients and partners with the circular economy

  • Developing case studies – sharing research that challenges the industry to apply circular economy principles

  • Innovation – encourage internal and industry-wide innovation through competition and demonstration

Alongside this, Arup has been working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as knowledge partners since 2016, promoting the application of circular economy principles. This powerful and insightful partnership is focused on delivering systemic, transformational change - both in the built environment and beyond.

What are the benefits of a circular economy approach?

Adopting circular economy principles offers businesses profitable service offerings, developers more adaptable assets, cities reduced waste management costs and citizens improved services with lower economic and environmental costs.

How are the opportunities best realised?

The greatest opportunities for the circular economy come when principles are applied as part of an organisation's strategic decision making – not just as part of a sustainable design strategy.

At Arup, our expertise stretches across the value chain from policy, finance and design to procurement, operations and logistics. We are able to identify lost value under business as usual operations in relation to indicators such as performance, whole life costs, revenue generation potential, resource flows and utilisation rates – to help inform strategic proposals.

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