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Successful transition to a circular model in housing

The housing sector is a major contributor to current global problems of resource depletion and climate change, representing one of the most important consuming sectors at EU level: 50% of all extracted materials, 40% of final energy consumption, 33% of water consumption and 33% of all produced waste. The lock-in to the linear business models of today is causing many environmental problems and is one of the major barriers in transition towards a circular economy. The main goal of the HOUSEFUL project is to develop and demonstrate innovative integrated circular services focused on the optimal management and use of water, waste, energy and material resources during all stages of the life cycle of residential buildings (new and existing). These services will be deployed and tested in four residential buildings in Austria and Spain from different building periods.

The services will be driven by a simple-to-use interactive repository of new Circular Economy Business Opportunities (CEBO). It will be co-created with citizens and stakeholders through the promotion of existing and innovative solutions proposed within HOUSEFUL for a successful transition to a circular model.

The integrated HOUSEFUL Service including the proposed 11 HOUSEFUL Solutions will be demonstrated at large scale in selected 4 representative European residential buildings (Frontrunner buildings):

  1. An innovative methodology for the quantification of building circularity.
  2. A co-creation methodology based on stakeholder engagement.
  3. Material Passports (MP) based on BIM to share data across building’s value chain.
  4. Sourcing of circular building materials from secondary material platforms or local producers
  5. Greywater and blackwater separation for water reuse (>95%).
  6. Separation of liquid/solid fraction of white water for water reuse (>95%)
  7. A. Joint treatment of blackwater, solid fraction and grinded blackwater for reuse in toilet, irrigation and renewable energy from biogas.
  8. Stabilised blackwater for use as compost in local community gardening.
  9. Waste management for recovery and valorisation of existing materials in buildings (envelope, facade, etc) and safety procedures for disassembly of construction elements.
  10. Design of energy efficient facades and roofs using modular and more sustainable materials.
  11. Co-creation based on performance rather than ownership for energy systems (Pay per performance business model).

To evaluate building circularity and offer the different 11 circular innovative solutions, these services will be presented as Software as a Service (SaaS) to stakeholders to improve and achieve a more efficient management and use of water, waste, energy and material resources in the housing sector.

HOUSEFUL is relevant for the housing sector. In addition to the challenges involved in improving the energy performance of buildings during the use-phase by residents, housing providers are paying more attention to the efficiency of energy and other resources. The design, construction and demolition phases (or, preferably, re-use, re-cycle or up-cycle) are being re-evaluated to improve the efficient use of resources and materials in new and existing buildings. Social and affordable housing providers are finding ways to improve cost-efficiencies through resource-efficiencies.

The EU has recognized the environmental and commercial potential of a circular economy in the buildings sector. In 2014, the European Commission adopted the Communication "Resource efficiency opportunities in the building sector" to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and  to improve the competitiveness of the construction businesses. The strategy identified the need for a common EU approach to the assessment of the environmental performance of buildings. In 2015, the Circular Economy Action Plan encouraged design improvements to reduce the environmental impact of buildings through the durable use and recyclability of components.

In HOUSEFUL the activities of Housing Europe focus on several issues: 1) Improving access to finance through investment planning 2) Making policy recommendations to foster the circularity of the housing sector and 3) Communicating during the project and disseminating important findings for the housing sector. Housing Europe is glad to collaborate with two housing providers from its membership in the HOUSEFUL project: NEUES LEBEN from Vienna (AT) and AGENCIA DE L'HABITATGE DE CATALUNYA based in Barcelona (ES).

Visit the project website and register for updates

Interested to know more? Please contact our Research Coordinator, Dara Turnbull.