Circular Economy: A Perspective of Builders, Architects, and Consumers in the Panama Construction Sector

Circular Economy: A Perspective of Builders, Architects, and Consumers in the Panama Construction Sector

Susana Rodrigues (School of Technology and Management, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal), Berta José Costa (School of Tourism and Maritime Technology, Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Potugal), Philippe Moreno (Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal) and Pilar Moreno (University of Seville, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9885-5.ch015

Abstract

Humanity and planet Earth have no long-term future unless there is a commitment to respect and to live within its ecological boundaries, which demands a transition from the prevailing economic system, the linear economic system, to another that is circular. The construction sector is one that requires high resources in terms of energy, water, and raw materials, generating waste and harmful atmospheric emissions. This chapter aims to analyse consumers, architects, and construction companies' awareness, challenges, and enablers in the implementation of circular economy (CE). Secondary data as well as primary data in the form of interviews and questionnaires were applied in a building construction sector in Panama. Six hundred and fifty valid questionnaires were collected. The results show that respondents are aware of the circular economy concept, but not of all circular economy principles. Few would be willing to pay for its implementation. Several challenges were also highlighted, bringing to light the importance of policymakers' roles for CE implementation.
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Introduction

The Importance of Circular Economy

Economic growth, the depletion of natural resources and the predominant consumption trends based on the ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model (Ness, 2008) are draining planet Earth. This economic approach relies on a linear paradigm of manufacture and consumption, in which large quantities of natural resources are extracted to produce easily accessible materials and energy, which after a short span of time are discarded generating massive quantities of waste.

Economic and societal growth are remarkably desirable, yet the prevailing production and consumption levels cannot continue at this pace, and indefinitely at the expense of natural resources. The turning point and the time to find an alternative have come, and Circular Economy has been materialising as a new economic model and as part of the solution to tackle the global emergency society faces nowadays.

Circular Economy stands out as a new economic model which encourages stakeholders (business, organisations, governments and individuals) to reconsider and reassess manufacturing processes and practices to minimise consumption and consequently waste, as the demand for innovational business models that pursue sustainability on a larger scale is gaining prominence.

Circular Economy has been materializing as a new business model foreseen to lead to a more sustainable development and societal stability (Feng and Yan, 2007; Geng and Doberstein, 2008; Ness, 2008; Mathews and Tan, 2011). Taking this assumption into consideration, Ren et al. (2013) state that to attain sustainable development it is essential to find the perfect balance, harmony, and interaction between the economic, societal, environmental and technological areas of an economy, a specific sector, or even in a specific industrial operation.

A Circular Economy approach optimises the correlations among these elements (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2012), as it furthers a more beneficial and environmentally sustainable use of natural resources, key principles of the implementation of a greener economy, featured by promoting a new business model and by enhancing the opportunity to create new employment opportunities (Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation, 2012; Stahel, 2014).

Nevertheless, CE has frequently been addressed as an economic approach to dealing with waste management, which stands out as a very reductive perspective that ultimately may drive CE implementation to failure, in what recycling, reusing or recovery processes are concerned. The challenge is to move towards a preventive and regenerative design of products and services and seek for alternative approaches that can be implemented throughout their lifespan, as well as the engagement of manufacturing processes, the environment and the economy in which it is integrated, ensuring that the renovation concerns not only the material or energy recovery part but on the contrary it turns out to be an enhancement of the products’ life cycle and consequently of the economic model when compared to the prevailing linear economic model (Geng et al. 2014).

Raising awareness among stakeholders concerning the implementation of a Circular Economy model and its principles is a crucial step to guide them towards the transition to new manufacturing and consumption patterns, which have the potential to help society achieve and increase sustainability and wellbeing at low or no natural resources expenditures.

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