2020 was set to be the year Scotland cemented its position as a nation at the vanguard of the low carbon agenda.
Circular economy (CE) principles had been identified as key to the country becoming a net-zero society by 2045 – five years before the rest of the UK.
But the unprecedented challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic has, understandably, diverted focus elsewhere. A Circular Economy Bill, tabled by Holyrood in 2019, to deliver supportive government legislation has been paused indefinitely. Construction is one sector that can ill-afford to lose momentum on adopting circular economy principles. The industry is the largest consumer of natural resources and accounts for at least 50% of Scotland’s overall waste. Operational carbon – or a building’s energy use and emission – has been the focus in recent years.
Notable progress has been made on energy-efficient design, and the use of low-carbon and renewable energy sources. But if the country is to achieve its ambitious sustainability targets, that focus must now shift to include embodied carbon too: the greenhouse gas emissions involved in construction, maintenance, repair and disposal of buildings.
The Morgan Sindall Construction team in Scotland recently held a virtual rountable to discuss these themes and the with experts on sustainability in the built environment, from the public and private sectors. The debate explored the future of the circular economy agenda in Scottish construction: the barriers to re-energising it, the imperative to overcome them, and the rewards on offer for successfully doing so.