Recent research indicates that circular economy practices have the potential to provide significant environmental benefits. In particular, recycling has been associated with reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. However, in this study, the authors posit that in a building context, environmental benefits of reuse practices could far surpass recycling. To test this, we evaluated the environmental benefits of a prototype and purpose-built, modular building designed for disassembly and reuse through a life cycle assessment of its components. We then compared the results of our life cycle assessment with the results of a contemporary construction approach with a focus on the recyclability of materials. Our results indicate that, compared to recycling, designing and building for reuse components offsets greenhouse gas emissions by 88% while also benefiting several other tested environmental indicators. Our findings help guide the judicious adoption of practices to reduce buildings’ waste production and greenhouse gas emissions.
Minunno, R., O'Grady, T., Morrison, G. M., & Gruner, R. L. (2020). Exploring environmental benefits of reuse and recycle practices: A circular economy case study of a modular building. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 160, . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.104855