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Thinking circular: engaging with our supply chain

Julia Messenger Julia Messenger 27 Mar 2017

In order to move to a circular economy and make buildings and infrastructure less wasteful, clients, designers, contractors and suppliers must collaborate to find new solutions. As part of the Circular Economy 100, BAM is keen to develop circular economy thinking within the built environment, so last week we hosted the first of our four 2017 circular economy workshops.

Jointly hosted by the Supply Chain Sustainability School, we are getting representatives from across the supply chain to participate in the workshops, which aim to share circular economy learning experiences and build collaboration throughout the supply chain. In this series of workshops we are hosting representatives from the lighting, façade, furniture, M&E, offsite, timber and quarried products industries.

The workshops explore different themes vital to the circular economy – the core principles, information management, design and business models. In this first workshop we undertook a “tear down” exercise, to bring the circular economy principles alive. We asked the attendees to dismantle everyday objects to their component materials. Our groups tackled a couple of broken laptops, a toaster and a construction site light fitting, with various amounts of success!

It became clear that different products have varying potential for reuse and material recovery. The toaster was made of low value materials and was almost impossible to dismantle without damaging components. The laptop, although tricky to dismantle, could be sparated which would allow the majority of the valuable components to be recovered or replaced. The light fitting on the other hand could be completely separated, allowing for continual refurbishment.

This exercise also highlighted another key lesson - that materials without information are waste. Without a disassembly guide it is hard to know how dismantle a product, and if you don’t know what materials are in a product, how can you know the residual value of the individual components? Without information like this, it is unlikely products will be refurbished.

To round off the day, Mark Dempsey, UK & Ireland Sustainability Manager for HP, followed up the exercise by describing how they have now advanced their laptops to allow for disassembly, even providing complete disassembly guides on their website. He also described other innovations at HP, including automatic ink cartridge refills to reduce waste and the use of 3D printing for the spare parts market, allowing for product refurbishment. To give an idea of the circular economy potential within the built environment, Nitesh Magdani, Royal BAM Group Sustainability Director, spoke about developments in the Netherlands which are already incorporating circular economy principles. This included the modular ABN AMRO development, which utilises prefabrication and is designed for demountability and the re-use of materials.

ABN AMRO building, image provided by CIE


Julia Messenger is a Sustainability Advisor at BAM, keep an eye out for blogs covering our future circular economy workshops. 

The workshops follow on from a successful series in 2016 which had a number of positive outcomes: ArcelorMittal were involved with the Circular Building at London Design Festival, BAM Nuttall is working on circular solutions with both HP and Polypipe, and a number of the suppliers are having their own discussions about potential collaborations.

If you would like to host your own tear down workshop visit the circular design guide for some top tips. 

To discuss opportunities around the circular economy further, contact us.



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