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Policy Dialogue
Towards a circular built environment: What role for the EU?

Thursday, 25 May 2023


Katharina Knapton-Vierlich
Head of Unit, Construction Policy, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs, European Commission
Michael Neaves
Programme Manager – Buildings, Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS)
Philip Crampton
President, European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC)
Samy Kazemi
Built Environment Lead, Circle Economy


Stefan Sipka
Senior Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre

Every year, the construction industry extracts around 41 tonnes of raw materials worldwide, accounting for a quarter of global GHG emissions. Shifting to a circular built environment would contribute to reducing the EU’s import dependency on needed materials while also lessening embedded carbon emissions. This transition entails refurbishing old structures, designing new buildings with components that can be easily recovered after demolition, and using durable and recyclable materials. More nature-based solutions should also be applied when building houses, roads, and other infrastructure in Europe.

This Policy Dialogue looked at the state of play and prospects for transitioning to a circular built environment and considered the findings of the ‘BUS-GoCircular’ project on ways to address the circular skills gap. It assessed the role of the EU, including its policies, financial support, and convening power, in supporting the transition.

The discussion showed multiple environmental and socio-economic benefits of creating a circular built environment. However, there are important short-term challenges, such as costs and lack of skills, that need to be taken into account when making the transition to a circular built environment. While the EU is trying to develop the standards and invest in a circular built environment, there is a long road ahead. As the roles and responsibilities are divided between the EU and member states, they must work together with the industry and civil society to make the transition happen.

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