Circular economy in the property industry

Breaking new ground with CANZLER

Circular Real Estate

In the property sector, the topic of the circular economy is now setting a trend that is moving towards a serious examination of sustainable projects and solutions in a circular property economy. The first pioneering projects have been realised and show that the trend is gaining momentum and could become one of the key drivers in the property sector.

By Birgit Loeflath, Senior FM & Workplace Con­sul­tant, CANZLER GmbH

A difficult path

However, there are still major challenges along the way. Although the Construction Materials Ordinance, which comes into force in 2023, has the potential to promote the circular economy, it is being held back by bureaucratic hurdles and differing interpretations in the federal states. Added to this is the problematic categorisation of recycled building materials as "waste", which reduces their acceptance.

However, the implementation of a "circular real estate" is gaining momentum. This will accelerate the transition from linear to circular practices, but must consider both environmental and economic aspects. According to a recent study[1], the key challenge is to establish a binding standard for the early creation of comprehensive material passports for building materials used. These material passports are crucial to consistently implement the reuse of utilised materials. Another important aspect is the promotion of biophilia design, i.e. architecture that is orientated towards nature and combines sustainability and quality of life. The importance of flexible, modular construction planning is also emphasised to meet the requirements of a genuine circular economy.


Rethinking existing buildings

The study also indicates that the preservation and development of existing buildings offer particular opportunities for circular real estate. Many office buildings in major German cities are outdated and sustainable refurbishment concepts should be prioritised instead of demolition and new construction. This can not only contribute to a significant reduction in greenhouse gases, but also make the recycling of building materials more efficient. The property industry must therefore consider the entire life cycle of a property in order to achieve true sustainability and energy efficiency. Currently, only operational energy consumption is regulated, while the so-called "grey emissions" that arise during construction have not yet been recorded consistently enough.

To achieve effective resource conservation, the following measures appear to be advisable:


Errection phase

  • Focus on existing buildings: renovation and maintenance should take priority over new builds
  • Reuse durable materials (radiators, roof tiles, windows, doors) Platforms for private individuals and companies already exist
  • Use of recycled building materials (brickwork, ceilings, floors)

[1] "CIRCULAR ECONOMY - Potential for existing properties", Wealthcap and JLL, March 2023

Use of bio-based building materials (ecological wall paints, hemp, clay, straw and wood as insulation, cladding, or construction)
In more detail, it means promoting modular and adaptive design - flexible, sustainable construction that can adapt to climate change.

In the office

  • Modular office furnishings
  • Utilising room-in-room solutions increases flexibility when changing use
  • Omitting walls contributes to sustainability.

If you want to go one step further, you can use second-hand furniture. However, in addition to the right attitude, there is still a lack of reliable certificates. Our neighbours in the Netherlands are way ahead of us with their voluntary commitment to second-hand furniture for public administrations! In future, the Dutch authorities even intend to use only recycled furniture.

  • Products made from recycled materials are increasingly being used
  • Use of LED lamps instead of conventional lighting fixtures
  • Sustainable purchasing policy includes focussing on regional suppliers - short delivery routes save CO₂.

In operation

Development of an individual energy concept - development of a decarbonisation strategy

  • Utilisation of renewable energy
  • Utilisation of hydrogen
  • Establish a waste disposal concept with waste separation and waste avoidance measures. This also includes taking back or reusing packaging.

Towards new goals.

CANZLER GmbH can make a significant contribution in this context by providing advice on ESG issues, developing energy concepts, workplace con­sul­ting, TDD including ESG and sustainability measures in existing buildings. We combine our extensive expertise with a strong commitment to environmental protection and resource efficiency in order to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for companies in the property sector and support them on their path to sustainability.