News Brief

Reducing Whole-Life Carbon Brings Fringe Benefits

By pursuing five circularity principles, project teams can add financial and non-financial value to buildings, says the UK Green Building Council.

Circular economy—a system that relies on regenerative activities instead of on extraction and disposal of finite resources—can help the built environment reduce its carbon footprint, according to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC). But there’s more: a new report from the group also ties circularity to other positive impacts, including financial value.

Identifying five circularity principles, the report provides guidance on how each principle can reduce the carbon emissions of building projects while also supporting financial and non-financial value. Thirteen case studies (five within the report and the others available online) support the findings, and each principle is associated with challenges and potential solutions.

  1. Maximize reuse—Reusing buildings and building products can immensely reduce upfront embodied carbon while also saving money on structure, façades, and other materials while contributing to building certification.
  2. Design for optimization—Durability, resilience, flexibility: these attributes and others contribute to future avoided embodied carbon emissions that can be hard to quantify. At the same time, buildings with these qualities can command higher rents and reduce future fit-out costs.
  3. Use standardization—Modular construction reduces upfront carbon as well as waste; when employed in the service of design for disassembly, standardization also helps avoid future emissions. These methods can also reduce costs of both materials and construction labor while increasing onsite safety.
  4. View products as a service—The report notes that there is so far little hard evidence that “product as a service” schemes—where building owners or tenants pay for furniture, lighting, or other systems on a sort of subscription basis instead of buying the equipment outright—reduce carbon emissions because they are so rare. However, there is evidence that they can reduce operating costs.
  5. Minimize impact and waste—Low-impact materials, recycled content, and other ways of reducing impacts can also greatly reduce upfront embodied carbon. Additionally, methods of “designing out waste” can reduce construction costs.

Overall, the report concludes, the findings “are intended to enable project decision-makers and key built environment stakeholders to strengthen the business case for implementing circularity.”

For more information:

UK Green Building Council


Published September 6, 2022

Melton, P. (2022, August 23). Reducing Whole-Life Carbon Brings Fringe Benefits. Retrieved from

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