NLA Conference- ‘Scales of Circularity, building towards a renewable London’

Jonathan attended the half-day NLA conference on Monday 04 September that examined how circular is London today? The event included speakers from the GLA, Local Authorities, Consultants and Clients that discussed current policies, guidance and flagship projects.

Around 40% of raw materials are consumed globally by the built environment. The GLA now requires Circular Economy (CE) Statements for all referable projects.

Although not a referable project the LSE’s Firoz Lalji Global Hub, 35 Lincoln’s Inn Fields has undertaken a pre-demolition audit of the existing building in order to identify quantities of materials that may be re-used in the construction of the new building or ‘mined’ for use on other projects. The aim being to reduce the amount of Embodied Carbon used in the construction of the new project.

Key takeaways from the conference include:

  • Guidance for CE Statements is set out in the ‘London Plan Guidance – Circular Economy Statements’ issued March 2022 – that includes six circular economy principles:
    • Building in layers
    • Designing out waste
    • Designing for longevity
    • Designing for adaptability or flexibility
    • Designing for disassembly
    • Using systems, elements or materials that can be reused and recycled
  • The CE industry is in its infancy and sourcing, surveying, extraction, storage and certification of materials for re-use is currently difficult, costly and time consuming.
  • The key challenges to developing a London CE include the lack of knowledge, skills and digital/physical infrastructure to support a paradigm shift to re-using materials in new construction projects.
  • CE projects typically include ‘donor’ buildings and ‘recipient’ buildings where materials are ‘mined’ from existing buildings to be re-used in the recipient building.
  • There are a growing number of projects where enlightened clients have decided to incorporate CE principles. The Plan A HE Sector visited the Entopia Building earlier in the year – https://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/about/entopia-building and the NLA conference included the Elephant, London, a project that includes existing steel structure mined for another project close to Tower Bridge.
  • It is anticipated that as CE principles become increasingly adopted designers will need to design differently. Potentially materials may need to be incorporated into projects very early in the design process because donor materials have already been purchased or design for a looser fit to accommodate materials as they become available
  • The Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) is already looking at the impact of CE on the design process and are developing guidance on CE for each RIBA work stage. This includes a new RIBA Work Stage 8: ‘End of Life’.
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