Better Buildings: Key Drivers for Constructing a Circular Built Environment in the U.S.

The Closed Loop Foundation, in partnership with 3M explores the landscape of circularity in today’s U.S. built environment.

The built environment—those man-made structures where we live, work and play—casts a profound impact on our quality of life and well-being.

From the air we breathe within office buildings, to the urban heat islands trapping warmth in dense cities, to a community’s resilience against extreme weather—the materials composing our buildings shape our surroundings in myriad ways. Yet in our current linear “take-make-waste” economy, these same materials bear a tremendous environmental cost, responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions—28% from operational emissions and 11% specifically tied to materials and construction. Understandably, a strong focus persists in prioritizing Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and insulation as key means of curbing emissions from building operations. This report, however, focuses on the materiality of buildings and their lifecycles—a crucial issue, as construction and demolition waste constitute a staggering 30-40% of all globally generated solid waste, with a shocking 30% of materials that are delivered to building sites ultimately ending up discarded as waste.

To illustrate what a path forward could look like, this report provides a snapshot of the built environment in the U.S. today, a summary of circular economy principles that can be applied to drive progress and a call to action for stakeholders across the U.S. building industry.

Read the full report

A Vision For A Circular Built Environment

A circular built environment requires rethinking the entire lifecycle of a building. Explore our report to learn about the nuances of maximizing the longevity of our built environment through examples drawn from across diverse U.S. contexts.