Study: buildings don’t meet EU Circular Economy Taxonomy requirements

German construction site

According to a recent study by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) in collaboration with European partners, the property industry is not prepared for the transformation to a circular economy as mandated by the European Union (EU).

Based on actual construction projects, the study examined the market-readiness of the circular economy criteria proposed in the EU taxonomy.

The study concluded that “not a single project” could be considered taxonomy-aligned. Two aspects that proved problematic were the reuse of material content and the use of recyclates. According to the study, there was also insufficient information and a lack of circular construction methods.

Launched by the EU in 2020, the EU taxonomy is a classification system for sustainable investments aimed at accelerating carbon-neutral transformation in Europe.

Commenting on the survey’s results, DGNB CEO Dr Christine Lemaitre, said: “We’ll only succeed with the transformation to sustainable building if there’s a shift in our business practices to the principles of circularity.

“That’s why it’s right that the European Union has been using the EU taxonomy framework to develop criteria to promote circular building.

“Our aim with the study was to gauge whether the building sector is in a position yet to meet requirements and whether the taxonomy is achieving its goal of making a broad impact.”

The study also found that none of the buildings included could be classified as taxonomy-aligned under the environmental objective of “transition to a circular economy” – more than half of all new buildings met less than 50% of the requirements.

The results of the study show that current approaches to preserving resources and using building materials are proving particularly challenging.

For example, not a single building project succeeded in meeting the materials quota, which stipulates that at least 15% of introduced building materials should be reused, 15% should be recycled and 20% should be either renewable, reused or recycled.

The reasons cited for this were a lack of suitable materials as well as shortcomings in information and data on the circular economy.

However, the projects did perform better when it came to demonstrating the future value retention of buildings, or their ability to preserve the value of building materials – for example, by showing that buildings were designed to be adaptable or allowed materials to be reclaimed.

Based on the results of the study, the consortium of researchers came up with several recommendations, which were submitted to the EU Commission in October 2022. These included adapting the criteria when it comes to market readiness, providing clear definitions and methods, and setting benchmarks.

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