The Whole Life Carbon Roadmap found that to reach net zero by 2050, we must prioritise reuse in our built environment. As part of our Advancing Net Zero programme, UKGBC is continually investigating the link between carbon reduction and circularity, arming industry with the tools needed to implement the circular economy for this purpose.

What is the link between the Circular Economy and carbon?

Embracing circularity during all phases of a building’s life cycle can lead to carbon reductions as well as a reduction in waste and material extraction. UKGBC’s 2022 report, Insights on how circular economy principles can impact carbon and value examined this relationship, as well as the financial and non-financial value that circularity can bring to project.

The link between the two is not always straightforward. However, the report demonstrates through case studies that if whole life carbon is the focus carbon reductions are not only possible but can bring wider value to the project.



How can each of the Circular Economy Principles reduce carbon?


Maximise Reuse

This principle has high potential for carbon savings, especially if reuse is on site. Maintaining the building’s structure or reusing structural elements or the façade can account for the highest upfront carbon savings.

Design Buildings for Optimisation

It’s harder to capture the carbon savings for this principle, as upfront design changes can lead to higher carbon emissions. However, through case studies it’s been demonstrated that this principle can lead to significant carbon savings in the future through the space being adaptable, flexible, or designed for disassembly.

Use Standardisation

When paired with offsite methods, design standardisation reduces waste and therefore can lead to a reduction in upfront carbon. Standardised elements may also be easier to reconfigure or reuse than bespoke items. However, it can increase carbon if not strategically applied.

Products as a Service

This principle has the potential to reduce carbon due to the more efficient maintenance and refurbishment cycles. With electrical products such as lighting there is the potential for carbon reductions within the operational carbon.

Minimise Impact and Waste

Case studies have demonstrated that there can be a reduction in carbon emissions when the additional materials used are recycled or low carbon.

Advancing Net Zero Partners

Our circular economy & carbon work is made possible due thanks to the generous support of our Advancing Net Zero Programme Partners

Case Studies

As part of our 2022 report we gathered several case studies from our members that demonstrate how our principles reduce carbon emissions in practice.