• Bansal, T., Miller, E., and MacArthur, C. (2024). The Circular Built Environment in Canada: A Strategic Framework for Future Action. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

The objective of this report is to develop a strategic framework for a circular built environment (CBE) in Canada that is ready to feed into a detailed strategic framework. We focus on buildings that typically exceed 600 square metres or three stories in height and exclude smaller buildings, such as single-family dwellings. Although a CBE can include any material, we focused particularly on wood, concrete, and steel for this report. We did not include material efficiency on-site or smaller renovations. Additionally, our focus was on material use or reuse, and therefore energy efficiency was beyond the scope of this report.

In this document, we outline how organizations can help mobilize a CBE through the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, the adaptive design of new buildings, and the reuse of materials. The circular economy is inherently a systems problem because it involves so many actors with interdependent activities. To enable a CBE, it is important to involve not only those actors that contribute directly to a built environment, such as owners, developers, and builders, but also those that can enable change, such as standards organizations, architects/engineers, and the government.

This report also outlines the first moves and second moves. The first moves will lift barriers, take small actions, and celebrate wins. Second moves will widen the circle to build upon those first actions and invite more actors. Overall, the following actions will greatly support the move toward a CBE:

  1. Define CBE concepts using standards
  2. Develop educational resources for central and direct actors (i.e., introductions to the concepts and benefits; how to ask for circularity in a request for proposal [RFP] for a developer’s new project)
  3. Build coalitions, starting with front-runner organizations and adding fast followers
  4. Research how to build physical viability (e.g., options for disassemblable connections or the safe reuse of wood in structural applications) and financial viability (e.g., markets for reclaimed materials) and develop recommendations for viable solutions
  5. Connect current municipal policy goals and projects with opportunities to incorporate circularity practices

This research report and the actions identified toward developing a CBE was greatly informed by the report generated in Phase 1 of this series of projects (please see the Phase 1 report linked below under Related Publications).