Colin Rose, Strategic Advisor and Partnership Lead – Built Environment, ReLondon, reflects on the launch of our recent report ‘Circular London: Building a renewable city’.
At the launch of the NLA’s new report, Circular London: building a renewable city, we heard about the urgency for more circular, resourceful ways of building, and the great projects and initiatives that are working towards that goal. London, with its 9 million residents, needs to lead the way, as one of the world’s largest metropolitan economies and the largest city in Europe.
ReLondon’s CEO, Wayne Hubbard, joined the panel discussion at the NLA’s report launch event. He spoke about ReLondon’s work in this area and our next steps. ReLondon helped draft the London Plan policy on Circular Economy, bringing circular economy statements into planning. We lead the London part of Circular Construction in Regenerative Cities (CIRCuIT), an EU-funded project, alongside partners in Copenhagen, Hamburg and Helsinki.
Acknowledging that there is no panacea to create a circular economy, CIRCuIT has executed a range of systemic interventions. There are 36 demonstrator projects across the four cities – some featured in the NLA report – under the headings of urban mining, extending building life cycles, and design for flexibility and disassembly. We’ve developed a proof-of-concept Material Reuse Portal that will provide a single go-to place to search for reused materials. We have a growing Cross-Authority Collaboration group that shares knowledge between local authorities on circularity and reuse.
We see real energy and enthusiasm in this group. We felt it at the NLA’s event. ReLondon’s next built environment programme will provide somewhere to put that energy: a much-needed framework for structured collaboration, knowledge sharing and capacity building. We envisage a London Circular Construction Coalition, focused on key actions that local authorities can take, and delivered in collaboration with industry players. The Coalition’s ambition is to accelerate system change through three main levers available to local authorities:
Planning policy – working out how best to introduce the Circular Economy Statement policy at local plan level.
Procurement policy – driving the market through local authorities’ own construction spending, representing 14% of London renovation and construction projects.
Infrastructure – co-delivering the physical and digital infrastructure to facilitate circular supply chains.
A series of working groups will draw together public and private stakeholders to reach consensus on topics like circularity indicators, and carry initiatives through to practical implementation.
There is political ambition to tackle the climate crisis. Alongside the Mayor’s commitments to net zero, 28 out of London’s 33 local authorities have declared a climate emergency and most have set a target of reach net zero or carbon neutral in their own estate and operations by 2030. Local government has a key role to play in enabling circular construction to extend beyond the leading edge of progressive clients and designers and into the mainstream – the London Circular Construction Coalition will be crucial in driving the transformation needed at the pace and scale required.