Public sector construction and its role in the circular economy

Kingsley Clarke

Kingsley Clarke

Southern Construction Framework | NACF South West Board member

Framework Lead at Southern Construction Framework and NACF South West Board member

I recently sat on a panel at FOOTPRINTS+ representing NACF, for what resulted in a very lively discussion on galvanising the circular economy in the built environment. We were there to talk about construction in the public sector specifically, but one of the key points was that getting this right needs to see the public and private sectors working together.

The circular economy is a big topic and one that is fundamental to how we approach public sector buildings in the future.  The built environment is the biggest user of natural resources and material extraction continues to rise dramatically each year.   Despite occupying just 1% of land surface, the built environment is responsible for about 25% of land system change and that can’t continue.

Don’t build…

Simply put, the best way to support a circular economy is in fact to not build at all! Unless there is an argument that there were no other options available.  But a no build approach does require some new thinking and central to this is also collaboration. It means a fresh approach to how public estate is used in each locality and the public sector working together to share space and to evaluate public estate needs as a collective.  For example, a council may have a large office block with lots of space and perhaps an NHS Trust down the road needs more desk space for its office- based staff.  Why not share that resource as an alternative?