Generating 64% of all waste in the UK, the real estate sector is resource hungry, consuming more natural resources than any other
For those of us working in the sector, Helen Gough looks at what we can do to minimise the impact
At JLL, we acknowledge the responsibly that we have as a sector, to focus on the future of our planet, and develop ways to eliminate waste and sustain growth wherever possible.
Our own sustainability strategy, Building a Better Tomorrow, reflects this approach, and considers how, as a firm, we can create spaces, buildings and cities where everyone can thrive. As an international business operating in 80 countries worldwide, and currently managing 400 million square metres of buildings on behalf of our clients, we have an important role to play in helping to integrate circular economy thinking into the built environment community. Our aim is to support the UK's transition to a circular economy through our services, our workforces and our public affairs activities by 2020.
We recently attended a roundtable with HRH The Prince of Wales and UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP to discuss the pressing issue of how we collect and use waste to create maximum value for business and society. Hosted by Business in the Community, it bought together business leaders from across the UK, with JLL advising on the role of real estate in the UK's ongoing transition to a low carbon and circular economy.
With construction materials accounting for 25-40% of global carbon emissions and the sector being responsible for 64% of all waste generated in the UK, this topic is one that can't be ignored. Buildings designed for a 60-year life being dem'olished after only 30 years and often stripped out at the end of every lease, leaving waste that can only be "downcycled" into lower grade products, are all the kind of things which must be addressed going forward. For example, solid timber is chipped or burnt, structural concrete becomes non-structural aggregate and even modular units like bricks are crushed rather than reclaimed. The overwhelming focus on material efficiency in the construction sector is on diverting waste from landfill, and encouraging recycling rates. A debate is emerging over whether these materials are being put to the best possible use, or whether their value is being maximised. However, instances of genuinely circular thinking are occurring in isolation. Smart designs and forward thinking is what is needed, to give projects a head start from the outset.
Creating a more efficient approach to eliminate waste and sustain growth has never been more vital. The circular methodology has the potential to benefit the real estate sector in several ways, including lower construction and refurbishment costs, lower waste management fees, greater resilience against volatile commodity prices, better building performance and increased innovation across the entire supply chain.
Putting this into practice at the heart of our client's project, let's look at the Building Consultancy team's involvement in the refurbishment of a 200 sq m office space in Regent Street on behalf of The Crown Estate - who aim to remove all waste from their business by 2030. We specified a full suite of remanufactured and refurbished furniture and equipment for the entire office and meeting room areas. This enabled us to use high quality furniture which looked brand new for a much lower cost. Furthermore, with the help of our waste consolidation programme across The Crown Estate's London portfolio, we were able to install kitchen worktops made from 100% recycled glass.
The Regent Street team will also be launching a range of products manufactured from Regent Street waste, including photo-copier paper, notepads, pens and pencils, which reflect the circular economy approach to reusing materials wherever possible. In addition, we are investigating a repurposing and reselling of glass products from waste glass from Regent Street retail and office occupiers.
This client case study offers some insight into how circular economy can be put into motion, and demonstrates the opportunity for the property industry to collaborate across all sectors and help drive change at a much bigger scale.