Value and Opportunities of a Circular Economy on Capital Projects

RT-380 Topic Summary
RT 380


The overall economy is overly reliant on unsustainable linear production and consumption practices. These old ways of working deplete finite, abiotic resources at rates that increase production costs, business risk, and economic instability. They also produce emissions and waste, which in turn cause environmental degradation.

The construction industry is one of the largest global resource consumers and waste generators, responsible for more than 50% of materials consumption in the U.S. Largely, this is a result of a traditional linear economy of take, make, and waste. To avoid creating this waste, industries – including construction – must shift toward a circular economy, which decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite raw resources to mitigate environmental impact.

This is why RT-380 developed knowledge and tools for CII members, so that they can successfully pursue the greatest opportunities, effective value propositions and key business models for driving a circular economy in capital projects. A circular economy aims to use materials more efficiently, longer, and in closed loops as part of a transformation to a more sustainable and competitive economy. However, this set of new opportunities for businesses also requires new business models, core values, and policies.

RT-380’s research objectives were the following:

  • Understand the opportunities and values of implementing circular economy principles in the capital projects industry.
  • Highlight which changes to business models will be required to maximize the value of shifting to a circular economy paradigm.
  • Develop tools to enable CII members to make that shift.

The results of this research indicate that, although our industry has made some progress to transition from a linear to a circular economy, challenges remain for achieving true circularity. Final Report 380 offers insights into the current state of knowledge in the industry with regards to implementing circular economy, gleaned from the team’s global scan of companies in the industry that have actively implemented circular business models and circular strategies.

The main contributions of this research include the following:

  • A knowledge framework for assessing potential circular business models
  • CII member success stories
  • Circularity readiness and implementation guides
  • A curated list of the tools currently available to help the construction industry implement circular economy

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : The Most-applied Circular Business Models in the Construction Industry

RT-380's global scan indicated that the construction industry applied the circular business models shown in the figure. In Figure 9, the size of each circle reflects how many companies use that topic (FR-380, p. 15).

Reference: (FR-380)

2 : Learnings from Construction Companies Involved in the Circular Economy

Through semi-structured interviews with 13 companies located in North America and Europe, the research team investigated the motivations, drivers, challenges, and lessons learned of companies involved with the circular economy. Table 15 summarizes the team's findings (FR-380, p. 30):

Reference: (FR-380)

3 : Implementation Tools

RT-380 developed a “how-to guide” to support companies in the process of implementation. Final Report 380 is composed of two major sections: a Circularity Readiness Guide and a Circularity Implementation Guide (FR-380, p. 45).

The team also identified and reviewed eight external tools created by circular economy-focused companies and organizations. The team included these tools in its how-to guide as an appendix, to serve as a helpful resource for companies that are transitioning from a linear to circular economy model:

  • Circular Economy Redesign Workshop Kit
  • Circular Business Model Canvas
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Circulator: The Circular Business Models Mixer
  • The Circular Transition Indicator
  • Sustainability Return on Investment
  • The Circularity Indicators Project
  • One Click LCA
Reference: (FR-380)

Key Performance Indicators

Reduced Life Cycle Cost (LCC), Project Decarbonization, Reduced Environmental Impact

Research Publications

Circularity in Capital Projects: Innovations and Opportunities - FR-380

Publication Date: 07/2022 Type: Final Report Pages: 171 Status: Tool

Presentations from CII Events

Session - Circularity in Capital Projects: Innovations and Opportunities

Publication Date: 08/2022 Presenter: Number of Slides: Event Code: AC22