In my presentation on ‘Circular buildings as an opportunity for innovation, jobs, and local growth’ as part of the Technical Expert Review on mitigation (TEM M) – built environment for the UNFCCC and the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction I reflect on how emerging models be used to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and speed up the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
New innovative approaches in built environments and neighbourhoods are following Uber and Air BnB in applying new business models and technologies to make more efficient use of resources and reduce of cost of services.
Examples include distributed ledger and smart metering technology which enable peer-to-peer transactions and support the development of new circular built environment enterprises.
Onsite service enterprises can provide renewable energy, hot water, recycling services, personal care, food and mobility services to occupants of buildings at a lower cost and with less waste than centralised conventional systems and create sustainable local jobs.
High density, mixed-use, modular, developments serviced by onsite service enterprises enable risk and capital costs to be shared between government and the private sector and provide a valuable alternative method for rapidly addressing pressing housing backlogs.
Crowd-funding platforms are being used to help enterprises to access finance and grow rapidly while providing reliable returns. Investors can buy portions of buildings, solar cells, food-producing plants and bee-hives and get paid when these produce rent, electricity, food or honey.
The ‘local’ emphasis of these models support strong linkages and partnerships which enable synergies and highly efficient, low waste approaches. For example, farmers who sell fresh fruit and vegetables to neighbourhoods, maintain fertility using compost created by local waste entrepreneurs from neighbourhood organic waste.
Through these examples, I suggest that circular approaches show considerable promise as a means of ‘leapfrogging’ unsustainable development to rapidly develop buildings and neighbourhoods that not only use resources more efficiently and produce less waste but also create growth, new enterprises and jobs.