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Top Tips for
Embedding Circular Economy Principles
in the Construction Industry


This resource is intended to help the construction industry start its journey towards the circular economy (CE).  It offers a series of practical tips – for Clients, the Design Team, Contractors, Material and Product Manufacturers, and Demolition Contractors. Those who have already developed and are practicing a sophisticated approach to the circular economy may find these tips useful as a checklist.
Much good work exists to define and explain the circular economy, notably by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Wrap, The Great Recovery, and several others. The Green Construction Board’s knowledge resource for circular economy thinking in construction provides a good signpost to further information.

This resource does not intend to duplicate this work.
It is widely acknowledged that the circular economy will bring economic, environmental and social benefits, and the Green Construction Board has prepared these Top Tips to assist the construction industry in moving towards this new model.

For quick access to all of the top tips click here. Alternatively, keep scrolling down this microsite to the section relevant to you.

What is the Circular Economy?

The circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.   
The circular economy aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times through life extension and maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture and finally recycling.

As well as new design approaches, different business models are emerging to support the circular economy. This includes buying products as services, leasing, take-back, and sharing/asset utilisation models. 
The circular economy is more than simply recycling; it is looking at the entire life cycle of any process and considering how the best whole life outcome may be achieved.

Resources are generally thought of in terms of materials (technical and natural), but the most holistic circular economy approaches also consider water, energy and ecology.

What is the Circular Economy in Construction?

The construction industry accounts for approximately 60% of UK materials use and one third of all waste arisings. In construction, CE is about reducing the demand for non-renewable virgin materials, reducing the production of waste, and maximising the value of recovered materials used throughout all stages of the programme; construction, maintenance and end of life. 
From a wider, built environment, perspective it goes beyond this and looks at circularity across other systems including energy, water, operational waste management, ecology, food, etc.

To have maximum impact the circular economy needs to be considered throughout design, specification, procurement, and construction of the programme.
We don’t have many examples of circular buildings/assets in the UK, and we don’t have a construction industry accustomed to circluar economy approaches. We will only get them if industry is inspired by the challenge, and if clients create the right conditions for success.

The Top Tips

The headline Top Tips for Clients; Designers; Material and Component Suppliers and Manufacturers; Contractors and Demolition Contractors, and overall conditions for success, are set out below. For supporting guidance, click on the PDF download relevant to you.

The circular economy  approach is relevant to both building and infrastructure projects. As such we use the term “building/asset” to underline the applicability to both sectors.

There are a number of Top Tips which apply to all of us in the industry and these are set out under ‘Top Tips for Everyone’
With the wide range of procurement routes used in the industry, the ownership of some of these Top Tips may need to be shared, and they can be tuned to suit the project structure you are using. 

Top tips for



  1. Demonstrate leadership
  2. Develop your knowledge
  3. Consider end-of-life, upfront
  4. Set out the business case

For more information on how to implement the Top Tips for Everyone, download the PDF.

Top tips by



  1. Commit to explore the circular economy
  2. Use the procurement process
  3. Encourage innovation and collaboration
  4. Set clear performance requirements
  5. Establish a minimum design life
  6. Take a whole life cost approach
  7. Start a dialogue with the supply chain
  8. Refurbish rather than demolish
  9. Commission a pre-refurbishment/demolition audit

For more information on how to implement the Top Tips for clients, download the PDF.


  1. Advise your client
  2. Include circular economy in design reviews
  3. Engage with manufacturers
  4. Align with the design life
  5. Design for ease of maintenance and upgrade
  6. Design for future flexibility
  7. Design for deconstruction

For more information on how to implement the Top Tips for Designers, download the PDF.

Material and Component Suppliers and Manufacturers

  1. Communicate end-of-life options
  2. Consider take-back schemes
  3. Consider offering your product as a service
  4. Minimise waste during manufacture
  5. Optimise packaging
  6. Design for remanufacture
  7. Optimise secondary materials

For more information on how to implement the Top Tips for Material and Component Suppliers and Manufacturers, download the PDF.


  1. Advise your client
  2. Procure from suppliers offering circular economy benefits   
  3. Eliminate waste
  4. Review the business case for procuring reused or recycled components
  5. Use digitilisation and BIM 

For more information on how to implement the Top Tips for Contractors,download the PDF.

Demolition Contractors

  1. Provide feedback
  2. Consider a pre-demolition audit
  3. Maximise reuse
  4. Measure and report

For more information on how to implement the Top Tips for Demolition Contractors, download the PDF.

Conditions for


This resource was funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  
We welcome comments on this resource. Please email

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