Circular Built Environments in Developing Countries

As part of the panel on the Business Case for Circular Built Environments at COP26 I was asked to provide input on circular built environments in developing countries. My input is outlined below.

Developing countries have a multitude of pressing issues.

As well climate change, unemployment, poor health and education, informal settlements, environmental degradation and inadequate water, sanitation and energy systems need to be addressed.

Circular approaches provide a way of addressing these issues simultaneously.

For instance, new circular construction approaches based on biobased and recycled materials can be used to build urgently needed schools, clinics and housing that improve health and education, create new jobs and enterprises, regenerate environments and address climate change.

The synergies created in this type of approach provide for a strong business case and create the type and scale of impacts that make it more likely to achieve climate change and sustainable development targets.

An interesting example of this approach is a project developing prototype houses in Zambia. Here, many of the new houses were being built of imported Chinese and South African products that included many elements made of plastics. These products soon led to waste as they had a limited life and were not easily repaired.

The prototype house used timber components and earth construction which could be easily repaired and recycled. This eliminated waste and created new small enterprises and local jobs.

This type of change can be supported by Local Content policy and standards which encourage the use of local sustainable products and has been successfully applied in South Africa.

A video of the session is available here.