January 17, 2023

Research Brief: The Circular Economy in Housing

Construction and the built environment represent a large target for cutting pollution and increasing sustainability. The sector consumes 40 percent of global resources, according to a report by UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, and emits 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. New research by a team of Engineering for Change Fellows and Habitat for Humanity investigated housing and the built environments in Mexico, Kenya, India and the Philippines, finding opportunities for waste reduction through a circular economy of reuse and recycling.

“These countries have the opportunity to design their development path, skipping the mistakes done before by developed countries” – Martin del Pino

Martin del Pino, a Senior Associate at McKinsey.org and a former E4C Fellow, co-wrote a paper in a package of research on circular economies and affordable housing. He presented some of the findings in the webinar Engineering a Circular Economy in the Built Environment.

“One of the greatest takeaways of the investigation was that the transition to a circular economy is urgent globally, but it is of significant importance to make this transition in the global south. It is estimated that more than 3 billion tons of waste will be generated in 2050, which is 70 percent more than is currently generated. This growth will be mainly in developing countries due to expected growth in the population and economic growth,” Mr. del Pino says in his presentation. “These countries have the opportunity to design their development path, skipping the mistakes done before by developed countries.”

The package of papers includes research into circular economies in the built environment in four countries: Mexico, Kenya, India and the Philippines. E4C Fellows analyzed circular economies, investigating their role as improvements to sustainability in the housing sector in low-income communities. Read a summary of the research and find links to the four papers at the link below.

Circular Economy and Affordable Housing

Mr. del Pino joined a panel of experts to discuss insights into sustainable construction and housing at the E4C Webinar, Engineering a Circular Economy in the Built Environment. Presenters included Cristina Contreras, Research Associate at the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University, Nzambi Matee, Founder and CEO of Gjenge Makers, Ltd., Patrick Kelley, VP of the terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter at Habitat for Humanity International, Ric Bohan, Senrior VP of Sustainability for the Portland Cement Association, and others. Find an overview of the event and biographical information about the presenters on our site at the link below, and see a recording of the webinar in the embedded video.

Engineering a Circular Economy in the Built Environment 
Explore the papers mentioned here and all of E4C’s Impact Research.

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