The project under which this report is developed aims to increase the capabilities for reusing construction products within the Nordic construction industry. The project aims to provide teachers in vocational education across Nordic countries with inspirational teaching materials and tools, thereby equipping students with hands-on knowledge about reusing construction products. To ensure a holistic approach in the development of teaching materials, the project initially investigates the regulatory framework within which the teaching materials operate.
This report is part of the Nordic Sustainable Construction programme initiated by the Nordic Ministers of Construction and Housing and funded by Nordic Innovation. The programme contributes to the Nordic Vision 2030 by supporting the Nordics in becoming the leading region in sustainable and competitive construction and housing with minimised environmental and climate impact.
The programme supports the green transition of the Nordic construction sector by creating and sharing new knowledge, initiating debates in the sector, creating networks, workshops and best practice cases, and facilitating Nordic harmonisation of regulation for buildings’ climate impact.
The programme runs from 2021-2024 and consists of the following focus areas:
Work package 1 – Nordic Harmonisation of Life Cycle Assessment
Work package 2 – Circular Business Models and Procurement
Work package 3 – Sustainable Construction Materials and Architecture
Work package 4 – Emission-free Construction Sites
Work package 5 – Programme Secretariat and Capacity-Building Activities for Increased Reuse of Construction Materials
This report is one of the Work Package 5 deliverables. The work has been carried out by Norion Consult in collaboration with the Danish Authority of Social Services and Housing.
The report provides a commentary on the recent development of key building legislation that promotes or hinders the reuse of construction products in the Nordics, including European and Nordic national policies. The findings indicate that it is not one single policy that hinders the possibility of reusing construction products: Rather, reuse is hindered by the sum of complexity resulting from not only the policy framework, which has been developed based on sometimes conflicting priorities, but also from cultural, market-based and technical barriers. As the European Union’s policy priorities change with the introduction of the European Green Deal, there is a window of opportunity where the legislative foundation for reusing construction products is being improved. The Nordic countries may take further advantage of this window of opportunity through cooperative Nordic efforts. One low-hanging fruit is harmonising upcoming Nordic policies, methodologies, and definitions related to reusing construction products.
The European Policy Landscape
The first chapter (4 – The European Policy Landscape) comments on the tendencies in European legislation that influence the possibilities of reusing construction products. Overall, European policies are addressing reuse indirectly, as there are no requirements for reuse. As such, the current enablers for reuse are the introduction of a whole life-cycle perspective on embodied carbon emissions and the current focus on standardising and improving the quality of sustainability reporting.
However, the green transition and resource efficiency agendas are also expected to increasingly influence building requirements. This is indicated by the revision of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which is analysed in detail. While the CPR does not currently support reused construction products, the paper provides the Nordic perspective on how it may further support reuse in its revised version. This chapter refers to Annex 1, where selected European policies are described in detail.
The Nordic Policy Landscape
The second main chapter (5 – The Nordic Policy Landscape) comments on and compares the national building legislation in the Nordics. After describing the development tendencies, Nordic key policy enablers and obstacles are summarised. This leads to recommendations on how to achieve better integration and harmonisation of Nordic policies influencing the reuse of construction products. These recommendations touch upon the opportunities for
Country Snaphots from the Nordic region
Selected national policies influencing the reuse of construction products from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden are described in detail. Overall, this chapter delivers a status on the recent legislative development and the Nordic legislative cohesion regarding supporting the reuse of construction products. Thereby, it also sheds light on the potential for further progress toward the overarching objective of becoming the world's most sustainable and integrated region.
This report presents a Mapping of relevant building legislation regarding reuse in each Nordic country. This includes an analysis and an overview of differences in Nordic legislation. The report introduces European and national policy initiatives that significantly positively or negatively influence the possibility of reusing construction products.
The transition to circular building practices is not always compatible with legislation. This can be the case when policies are not updated to support cascading of resources, de-classification of waste, new cooperation across sectors, or in other ways, hinders the introduction of used material into existing or new construction. Such policy barriers and related solutions are pointed out in the report to highlight opportunities for future regulation to support the reuse of construction products further.
It is worthwhile to mention that the focus on reuse in this report does not imply that this strategy is the only applicable nor the best strategy within the circular economy framework. The European waste hierarchy framework highlights how preventing waste is the superior strategy for reducing our environmental footprints. Examples of waste prevention within construction are optimising or reducing the use of space in the existing building stock, using existing assets that are currently unused, and renovating instead of constructing new buildings where it is possible. However, reusing construction products can preserve cultural history and embodied emissions, virgin resources and value far more effectively than the established recycling and recovery strategies.
The content of this report is based on written input from Nordic policymakers. Thus, it mainly presents the barriers from a policymaker's perspective. Simultaneously, the report draws from the reports produced within the sister project, Nordic Networks for Circular Construction, focusing on circular construction broadly (WSP, forthcoming).
European policies influencing the possibilities for reusing construction products are undergoing drastic changes. While it is unknown how the final curvatures of the European policy landscape shape themselves, the tendency is that it will be for the better for the possibilities for reuse. Some significant changes that this chapter will cover are the shift to a whole-life embodied carbon perspective in policies, the resource efficiency agenda, the new reporting requirements, frameworks for sustainability definitions, and finally, the revision of technical specifications.
The recent decade has demonstrated a paradigm shift in European policy from focusing on environmental performance during the use phase of buildings to a whole-life embodied carbon approach that considers energy consumption of the entire life cycle of buildings. This development is reflected in the introduction of the European Green Deal, the new framework for sustainable construction, Level(s), the Renovation Wave, the Transition Pathway for Construction, the European Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities, as well as the revision of existing legislation such as the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the Ecodesign Directive, and the Waste Framework Directive. This paradigm shift increasingly supports the reuse of construction products since reuse will improve total resource and environmental performance. However, reuse is still uncommon in the Nordic construction industry (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2015; European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment, 2017). The European Commission's proposal for the revision of the CPR suggests that life cycle assessments (LCA) should be part of the standardisation, but which method it should use is not yet decided. Recent development in the negotiation in the revision of the CPR indicates that reused construction products may be assessed on the basis of specialised harmonised standards.
Furthermore, resource efficiency and circular economy are key priorities in European Strategies. Several European strategies, roadmaps, visions, and programs encourage increased reuse of construction products as a means to achieve higher resource security and lower impact on the environment, ecosystems, and biodiversity. This is reflected in the New Circular Action Plan, the New European Bauhaus, and the Resource Efficiency Roadmap.
In parallel, there is an increased focus on sustainability reporting, with the development of the Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) on social and environmental impacts, and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD) to address adverse impacts along global value chains. There are also new requirements for the reporting of reuse in the Waste Framework Directive. The European Commission is addressing greenwashing through the Green Claims Initiative. Reuse rates and designing for reuse are included in the reporting requirements to some extent. These initiatives will further, in theory, promote reuse as means to improve the environmental performance in reporting.
Finally, the European Commission has clearly defined sustainable construction and construction products with Level(s) and the Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities. Level(s) includes indicators on circular material usage in all life cycle stages: These cover bill of quantities, waste management, and design for adaptability, renovation, and deconstruction. The Taxonomy includes indicators on circular economy: While building design and techniques that support reuse are part of the “Do no significant harm” principles, the benchmark rates do not differentiate between preparation for reuse, recycling, and material recovery (including backfilling). These frameworks are expected to affect both European and member-state policies.
The development of EU policies increasingly supports the reuse of construction products by improving data quality, reporting, waste management, energy performance, etc. However, the reuse of construction products is still not directly required. Even the recycling requirements for construction products in the Waste Framework Directive can be considered unambitious since the minimum requirement for recycling is low-quality recycling with irreversible loss of value and embedded environmental emissions, e.g., backfilling. However, the changes in the European policy landscape are expected to incrementally remove supranational policy hindrances and pressure the current building regime to adopt sustainable building practices, including reusing construction products.
Overall, the complex policy network influencing the opportunities for reusing construction products consists of regulation on energy performance, waste management, and technical specifications. From a bigger perspective, these are closely related to the overall European strategies. In parallel, several policies indirectly affect the market and building culture, e.g., by improving transparency in the sector through standardised sustainability reporting. The policy themes covered in this paper are not exhaustive and do not, for instance, touch upon public financing opportunities for technical niches. However, it does provide a brief overview of the current policy landscape. The interrelation between the mentioned policy themes can be illustrated as follows:
Generally, the sector is reluctant to use construction products without certification of tested performance because these ease the standard division of responsibility. This limits the application of reused construction products drastically. The key European regulation on construction products certification is the CPR, which is under revision at the time of writing. Hence the following chapter will explore how the CPR hinders reuse and how potential solutions may be incorporated into its revision.
To read more about the individual European policy initiatives, see Annex 1: Description of European Policies.
It is a shared understanding in the Nordic countries that the current Construction Products Regulation (CPR) (before its revision) does not promote the reuse of construction products. There are three main arguments:
The CPR regulates the technical performance of a construction product when it is placed on the European market for the first time. The regulation also covers redistribution, but no provisions address where products are redistributed as used products.
It has been unclear for the Nordic authorities whether the CPR covers reusable building parts with mandatory CE markingThe CE marking indicates that a construction product is in conformity with its declared performance and that it has been assessed according to a harmonised European standard or that a European Technical Assessment (ETA) has been issued for it. The CE marking for construction products differs in that it cannot necessarily be seen as a quality mark of the product – it can, however, help to provide information about the product's properties, after which the client can assess whether the construction product is suitable. or whether they are covered by national legislation. Generally, the Nordic countries consider the control of reuse in construction a national legislative matter. An exception to this is when a reusable building component is considered a new product under the CPR, for example, when it is substantially modified and changes characteristics and therefore needs to be CE-marked. There has been a clarification on this matter by the European Commission after a request from Norway, but further clarification on the application of the CPR for reused products is needed (Zhu & Tähtinen, 2022).
Harmonised standards are generally not considered applicable for reused products because they are not flexible regarding technical requirements and content specifications. There is the possibility to apply for a European Assessment Document (EAD) specifically for the used construction product and use this as a basis to apply for a European Technical Assessment (ETA), which may form the basis for a CE mark on the preparation for the reuse of construction products. The Danish case of reused bricks demonstrated the possibility of applying for an EAD even when a harmonised standard exists for similar new products. The bricks could not be covered by the standard applied to new bricks because the standard specifies a Factory Production Control (FPC) system, which does not apply to reused bricks. However, the legal discussions around this unique case are still ongoing. The Danish company argues that selling its products, especially internationally, would be difficult without the CE mark (Egebæk et al., 2019).
Key barriers to the application of harmonised standards to reused products are:
Some stakeholders require CE-marking and documentation, while others believe that building regulations do not necessarily prohibit the application of reused materials but rather facilitate the continuation of traditional practices. However, a general misunderstanding in the market has been that reused construction products must be CE-marked even though the standard does not cover reused products. Another misunderstanding is that only products assessed through either CE marking or other means of certification fulfil the requirements on known and documented properties. Those provisions ensure that the requirement on known and documented properties is fulfilled, but a constructor may assess the products by other means, e.g., when using reused products.
While the legal significance of waste classification differs across Nordic countries, removing the status of waste is perceived as more complex than avoiding it. Avoiding waste classification is easier if reuse happens within the same organisation or in the informal economy. However, transportation, storage, and distribution between companies within the formalised economy become more complicated legally as soon as used construction products are classified as waste.
The proposed revision of the CPR presents an excellent opportunity to extend the scope of the regulation to include the environmental impact of construction products. This has the potential to establish a more consistent legislative framework in line with environmental policies and the ambitions of the European Green Deal. It is one of many essential building blocks to ensure that the built environment will deliver on European sustainability and climate objectives, such as climate neutrality and resource efficiency. Thus, the imperative for the revision process to contribute to increasing the reuse of construction products is much welcomed. However, there is a risk that the European Commission will miss an opportunity to establish a future-proof legislative framework promoting a circular economy if it does not make direct considerations for the higher levels of the waste hierarchy.
In light of this, the following measures to facilitate the reuse of products through the revised CPR are proposed:
Implementing these measures could enhance the possibilities for reusing construction products and build trust in the performance of reused products.
In the following chapter, we zoom in on the Nordic region, exploring the status and tendencies in the recent policy development, current policy barriers for reuse, and potential improvement areas.
The Nordic policy landscape is, first and foremost, highly embedded within the European policy framework beyond the required national implementation of Directives. The Nordic region is simultaneously actively influencing European policy development by acting as a pilot for new spearheading regulative solutions. The Nordic construction industry is considered highly adaptive to new regulations, and there is strong coherency among vertical governance levels, which puts the Nordic region in a unique position to push the sustainability agenda. The Nordic experiences and competencies are often involved in developing EU construction policy.
In the Nordic region, the whole-life-carbon perspective on environmental performance is reflected in required documentation and upcoming limit values for carbon emissions. Nordic building authorities are making efforts to ensure that the emission savings from reuse are reflected in the new reporting requirements. In this way, reuse will be incentivised to reduce total emissions.
Overall, the climate agenda is more present than the resource efficiency agenda. This is, for instance, indicated in the Danish Roadmap for Circularity, which illustrates how circularity properties are still somewhat in the background when assessing the overall focus in the sector. The roadmap indicates that the Danish sector is more focused on transitioning to biogenic materials rather than designing for circularity or reusing existing construction products (Realdania, 2023).
Nevertheless, the circular economy and sustainable use of natural raw materials are key strategic priorities in the Nordics. The first wave of technical requirements for circularity properties in new buildings is upcoming: For instance, in Finland, the reform of the National Building Act is expected to introduce requirements for, among other things, design for longevity, repairability, and disassembly by 2025. While it is still unclear how these specifications will be formulated, the initiative will likely pave the way for similar requirements in the Nordic region. Norway has already introduced the required design for disassembly.
Most Nordic countries have already defined strategies for refurbishment and renovation, resource efficiency, waste reductions, sustainable construction, biodiversity, etc. Overall, the effort to minimise raw material extraction and usage is intensifying. Several national strategies include targets for reusing construction products; however, reuse rates are pooled with recycling and recovery targets. In the Danish case, a target in the waste management strategy is to improve the conditions for reuse.
One possible explanation for lacking reuse targets is that measuring reuse rates within construction is especially challenging (European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment, 2017). Generally speaking, most Nordic countries could revise and update current raw material plans and circular economic strategies with new and more ambitious circularity targets for construction.
Rather than requiring the reuse of construction products, current Nordic legislations seek to increase reuse through indirect measures: These are the beforementioned incitement structures for reporting on climate emissions, required sorting on construction sites, pre-demolition audits, selective demolition, and waste management plans. The success of this approach depends to some degree on the ability of building authorities to monitor and enforce these policies since such legislation often conflicts with the current lacking economic incentives for reuse and recycling.
Technical specifications and construction procedures for new buildings are formalised in building regulations, essential for ensuring a safe construction industry and the built environment. These regulations also serve as a means for building authorities to introduce new sustainability standards for construction.
Generally speaking, the Nordic regulation covers seven parameters through the building codes:
Mechanical resistance and stability; Fire protection; Hygiene, health, and environment; Safety and escape routes in the use phase; Protection against noise; Energy savings and thermal insulation; Sustainable use of natural resources.
Despite the importance of each parameter, building regulations are viewed by some stakeholders as a significant obstacle to reusing construction products. Overall, current Nordic building regulations are not considered a catalyst for promoting reuse within the industry. The Nordic project Nordic Networks for Circular Construction has explored key policy barriers related to the technical requirements.WSP (2023) Nordic Networks for circular construction - WP2 Analysis of Barriers and Possibilities (unpublished at the time of writing) The authors find that specific technical requirements may especially challenge the reused of construction products: This is especially true for construction products crucial for fire safety, structural integrity, energy performance in the use phase, and acoustic properties. Accessibility and safety can also be a concern. Building regulations can also have conflicting criteria: Acoustics and fire protection requirements often demand more material per area, leading to an increased environmental footprint that contradicts the requirements for emissions. However, this may not be so much a legal problem as a problem regarding a lack of feasible ways of declaring essential characteristics of used construction products and thus documenting the appliance to the requirements in the National building code. The interpretation of regulations by the industry, authorities, and certified engineers on how to document this appliance can discourage the use of novel and reused materials.
The table below (Table 1) compares five Nordic countries across eight selected parameters considered key policy enablers for reusing construction products. The table uses these parameters to indicate how well each country supports the reuse of building materials. The list of indicators is not necessarily exhaustive.
Table 1: Comparison of Nordic Policy Initiatives across eight selected parameters considered as key policy enablers for the reuse of construction products.
Requirements for Improved Building Design:
Design for circularity properties includes designing for flexibility and adaptability, designing for disassembly, and designing long-lasting buildings. By introducing legislative requirements for circular design, the potential to reuse buildings, construction products and materials in the buildings’ end-of-life is increased. This contributes to waste and emission reductions and reduced use of raw materials.
Required Documentation of the Environmental Impact of New Construction:
Circular construction practices are promoted by requiring documentation of the total green house gas emissions from new construction. For example, this can contribute to promoting renovation and using low-carbon materials such as reused construction products. When no EPDs (Environmental Product Declaration) are available for used construction products, emissions from the relevant modules in the life cycle assessment should be assigned to zero rather than to similar emissions as in new products. Otherwise, reuse will be disincentivised. As data on reused construction products and the preparation of reuse is developed, these emissions can be included to provide more accurate information.
Carbon Limit Values:
The construction industry is responsible for a large portion of the total global carbon emissions. Setting carbon emissions limit values encourages using low-carbon materials such as reused construction products and secondary raw materials. This will create incentives for circular construction, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of buildings and infrastructure.
New policy initiatives and targets must refer to a clear definition of reuse that differentiates from recycling. In general, all new policies on circularity must be followed by sufficient interpretation guidance and practical examples.
Targets for Waste Reduction and Reuse Rates:
Specific targets for waste reduction and recycling rates are important, but targets for reuse represent a higher level in the European waste hierarchy. Reuse rate targets are currently lacking in Nordic policies. By committing to concrete targets, reuse is encouraged, and progress toward circularity can be measured.
Required Resource Screening / Pre-demolition Audits:
Pre-demolition audits are carried out before the demolition or renovation of a building, and help identify products and materials that can be reused or recycled. It is an essential practice for ensuring high-quality construction and demolition waste recycling. Furthermore, these audits also serve as an essential measure to identify and safely dispose of hazardous waste. Required pre-demolition audits should be supported by effective enforcement and parallel efforts to introduce the new required competencies to the sector.
Required Waste Management Plans:
To ensure that waste is managed effectively and efficiently, waste management plans are important to ensure the safe removal of hazardous waste and to identify construction waste that can be diverted from low-quality recycling. Waste management plans that address both the construction and the end-of-lifecycle phases can already be required in the design phase of a building project.
Regulation of Hazardous Content:
The regulation of hazardous content in construction products is essential to ensure the safety of human health and the environment. However, current legislation on hazardous content seldom includes considerations for the possibilities for reuse. The risk of contamination further complicates issues resulting from the lack of technical documentation for reused construction products. Therefore, it is necessary to regulate hazardous substances in reusable construction products to support the safe reuse of construction products.
The indicators listed in Table 1 (Comparison of Nordic Policy Initiatives) have been pointed out as relevant in terms of enabling the reuse of construction products. In light of the ongoing work with the various European policies described in the first chapters of this report, most of the indicators will unquestionably get attention from all Nordic countries in the coming years. There are, however, specific indicators that have been identified as particularly relevant for further investigation in terms of harmonisation across the Nordics and beyond:
Requirements for Improved Building Design
First, a key element in terms of increasing the sustainability of buildings is setting requirements for improved building design, such as design for disassembly, flexibility, and adaptability, ensuring longer-lasting buildings, and including the use of bill of quantities, materials and lifespans. In this regard, upcoming legislation must be specific and accompanied by extensive interpretation guidance. Technical criteria could benefit from referring to the Level(s) sustainability framework when implementing these in national legislation to ensure compatibility with future European regulations. Some Nordic countries are taking important initial steps that may inspire the remaining countries.
Climate Impact of Construction
Secondly, the current push from the European Commission causes all countries to address documentation of the climate impact of new construction. All Member States are addressing this, and some are already in front with implemented requirements in their national legislation. As the next section will cover, these requirements vary in terms of what data is considered valid and the inclusion of different areas, conditions, building models and modules. Therefore, this might be a prominent area for harmonisation which is a task that is already going on in the Nordic Sustainable Construction programme. In addition, developing, e.g., LCA tools and certification schemes by frontrunners will be an opportunity for export and further harmonisation.
A Common Definition of Reuse
Third, how to define reuse and what to include in the definition is also important when working with incitement structures for reuse. When comparing, e.g., LCA-modules and how reused construction products are calculated in the Life Cycle Analysis of buildings, the definition of reuse can have a significant impact. One step towards harmonised regulation in the Nordics may be a common definition of reuse or a clear overview of the different definitions and their differences.
Furthermore, there is a potential for joint input in the expected development of specialised harmonised standards for reused construction products. National Nordic research projects are already working on how to test and define technical properties for different reused construction materials.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is essential in all Nordic countries to incite the reuse of construction products (Nordic Sustainable Construction, 2023). Indeed, the LCA of buildings is one way forward when the reuse of construction material is rewarded in the climate declarations for buildings. However, the question is: How should the emissions from reused construction products be calculated in LCA for construction? So far, there is no joint agreement across the Nordics. The Nordics use different methods and do not include the same LCA modules. However, there is currently a window of opportunity to align methods of calculating emissions from reused construction products.
The following table (Table 2) illustrates resemblances and differences in how the Nordic countries calculate CO2 emissions from reused products in the Life Cycle Assessment of buildings. It provides a complete overview of the LCA modules, which are relevant for reused products and how they are calculated – or expected to be calculated – in the modules across the Nordic countries.
In Sweden, Finland, and Norway, reused construction products are prioritised by assigning a zero CO2-emission value to modules A1-A3 (raw materials, transport, and manufacturing) in their LCA. In a recent political agreement, Denmark has also decided to set the CO2 emissions of reused construction products to zero for modules A1-A3 in LCA calculations, aligning with the regulations of neighbouring Nordic countries. Iceland is currently developing a decarbonisation roadmap, and more information on their regulations in this field is anticipated later this year (Nordic Sustainable Construction, 2023).
While these are necessary initial steps, there is still room for harmonisation of the remaining modules of the Nordic LCA scopes. The Nordic countries currently employ different methods and do not include the same LCA modules: For instance, Sweden, Finland, and Norway have chosen to include modules A4/A5 in their national climate declarations, ensuring a consistent calculation approach. Modules A4/A5 account for emissions from transportation to the construction site and the construction process. All three countries allow the use of either generic values from a national database or precise emission calculations. In Denmark, these phases are not yet included in the LCA; therefore, there is no defined method for calculating the emissions of reused products (Nordic Sustainable Construction, 2023).
The next chapter takes a deep dive into each of the Nordic countries and the regulation considered most relevant for reusing construction products.
The construction sector is targeted through different political strategies, including The National Strategy for Sustainable Construction (Indenrigs- og Boligministeriet, 2021) and the Action Plan for Circular Economy (Miljøministeriet, 2021).
The National Strategy for Sustainable Construction includes an initiative specifically aiming to ensure the safe and healthy reuse of construction products and regulations regarding climate impacts in new buildings, which will be described further below.
The Danish Building Code provides function-based technical requirements for construction, and all construction must apply to these requirements, whether they entail new or used construction products. The Danish Building Code ensures that buildings consider structural safety, indoor climate, human health, fire hazards, and energy performance. Regarding structural safety, The Danish Building Code refers directly to Eurocode and the accompanying national annexes.
The builder is responsible for ensuring that the building complies with the requirements in the building code. This includes ensuring that suitable construction products are selected for the project and that the performance of these products are documented. The latter can be a challenge in the case of reused construction products when some of the properties of a reused product can be difficult to assess or define. The Declaration of Performance (DoP) and CE-marking can provide the necessary documentation for products covered by a harmonised standard or with a European Technical Assessment. However, alternative methods for assessing product properties may be utilised for products not covered by a harmonised technical specification, such as most reused construction products.
The new building code, which has been applicable since January 1, 2023, contains two new regulations regarding climate impacts in new buildings:
This new legislation does not promote the reuse of construction products in its first version, where reused construction products account for the same emissions as new products. However, in a new political agreement, Denmark has set the CO2 emissions for reused construction products for the LCA modules A1-A3 to zero, like some of the other Nordic countries. The Danish broad political agreement is currently sent to notification in the EU, and the principles are expected to enter into force on January 1st, 2024, and will thus enable the reuse of construction products.
For more information on how reused construction products can be calculated in Denmark and for a comparison to the other Nordic countries, see Table 2.
In parallel with the building legislation, the Danish Environmental Agency is expected to implement selective demolition into the waste legislation in 2023. The current waste legislation requires sorting waste materials into a set amount of different material types to enable a high degree of material recovery (mainly recycling and backfilling) and prevent incineration or disposal. This new legislation is based on extensive projects aiming to uncover and specify how selective demolition can most successfully be implemented in the building and construction sector. Selective demolition is a prerequisite to recovering and reusing construction products successfully.
Reusing construction products in Denmark is not a common discipline within the industry and is not required by legislation. Some stakeholders consider the national building regulation as a hindrance to the reuse of construction products, but the criticism is rarely substantiated. Generally, the provisions of national legislation related to structural safety, indoor climate, and human health, fire hazards, and energy performance efficiency are considered complicated to unite with the reuse of construction products. Danish safety regulation leaves little room for dispensation, making it difficult to increase reuse. However, the underlying challenge might not be exclusively legal but rather stems from the absence of practicable means to declare the fundamental attributes of used construction products. For example, national regulation requires floorboards to comply with standards EN 1995-1-1 and AC:2007 for strength and firmness. The regulation allows for documentation with other methods as long as it documents the same level of structural safety, for example, by providing best-practice cases and applying a conservative estimate. However, while in this example, the reuse of floorboards might theoretically be possible, the national legislation lacks a feasible way to document this. Stakeholders request more standards and regulations on this matter.
The building code and legislation following the national strategies for circular economy and sustainable construction are necessary legislative tools to promote reuse. But stakeholders argue that they think the current and future legislation is insufficient.
It is mainly the building code and technical requirements that define which materials can or cannot be reused today. New Danish policy initiatives mainly emphasise reducing the carbon footprint, resulting in the industry deprioritising waste management, limiting chemicals, and designing for adaptability and disassembly (Realdania, 2023).
The recently published Roadmap for a Circular Economy in Construction produced by the philanthropical organisation, Realdania (2023), in close cooperation with the Danish sector, requests, among other things, legislative requirements for selective demolition and resource mapping; more rigid limit values for carbon emissions; a separate circular economy ministry; focus on reduced resource usage in the Planning Act; and finally, standards and harmonisation of methodologies and definitions.
Finland has a range of strategies and action plans for the circular economy. The Strategic Programme is the main driver for the circular economy, guiding many of the current sectoral strategies. The construction sector is still in the process of acknowledging circularity as a core principle.
Regarding sustainability and circularity, the effective national building regulation (the Land Use and Building Act, 2000), aims to promote ecologically, socially, and culturally sustainable development, amongst other objectives. It may be seen as outdated as it does not include distinct regulations on the building’s carbon footprint through a climate or low-carbon evaluation. However, the building regulation is being revised, and the new Construction Act will enter into force in 2025. The new legislation will promote the circularity of the built environment in many ways, including the reuse of construction products. Furthermore, it will introduce new sustainability requirements, such as embodied carbon limit values for each building type.
A concept for a voluntary pre-demolition audit (Purkukartoitus) was developed by the Ministry of the Environment in 2019. The audit includes a section to assess materials and construction products for reuse. This tool has been a subject of the Green Deal concluded between MoE and Property owners’ association Rakli. The tool has recently been digitalised in the Rapurc project and aims to promote the digital tool (www.purkukartoitus.fi).
There have been several projects aiming at developing reuse practices for construction products. In the Purater project, qualifications criteria for reused construction products were also studied. The ongoing multi-stakeholder project develops national procedures for on-site qualification criteria for reused building parts, considering safety, health, and environmental aspects. The results of the project are expected in 2025.
The main objectives of reforming the Land Use and Building Act (Finnish Ministry of the Environment, 2023) are to create a carbon-neutral society, strengthen biodiversity, improve construction quality, and advance digitalisation. The government’s proposed reformed act was published on April 13th, 2022. The proposal was submitted to Parliament in early autumn, and the law would enter into force at the beginning of 2025.
The legislative reform promotes the reuse of construction products as follows:
Finland additionally seeks to promote the reuse of construction products by employing life cycle assessment (LCA) calculations in the construction sector. In this regard, Finland assigns a zero value to CO2 emissions in modules A1-A3 (which encompass raw materials, transportation, and manufacturing) while including emissions from modules A4/A5 (about transportation to the construction site and installation), based on the incorporation of either generic values sourced from a national database or precise emission calculations. Thereby, reused construction products are given an advantage in the LCA. For comprehensive details on how reused construction products are assessed in Finland and a comparative analysis with other Nordic countries, see Table 2.
For the moment, the reuse of construction products is not a mainstream practice in Finland. It is anticipated that the upcoming reform of the Construction Act will establish necessary minimum requirements for sustainable and circular construction. The Finnish regulation does not differentiate between reused and new products, and there are currently no rules defining the required qualifications for reused products. This means that the current national procedures for construction product approval are not suited for reuse since they were not intended for this purpose, and many practical questions are not solved yet. This hinders the uptake of reused construction products. To overcome these barriers, voluntary approval procedures for construction products that do not fall under CE marking according to CPR (305/2011) are already being developed to increase the possibility of reuse.
Iceland does not currently have a dedicated circular economy strategy. However, a range of plans targeting other environmental aspects indirectly promotes the circular economy in construction to a lesser extent. Iceland also has ambitions for the required reuse of construction products, but the expected implementation date is unknown.
The Icelandic Building Regulation (Húsnæðis- og mannvirkjastofnun, 2022) requires a plan for handling construction and demolition waste, whereas 70% of the waste must be sorted. According to the law of waste treatment, C&DW must be sorted into seven categories. These requirements are not considered more ambitious than in the remaining Nordic countries. There are, however, plans for implementing required reuse in the national regulation, but no date has been set.
The Icelandic Roadmap Towards Sustainable Construction 2030 (Vegvísir að vistvænni mannvirkjagerð 2030) and national project, Building a Greener Future (Byggjum grænni framtíð, 2022) aim at reusing/recycling 95% of construction and demolition waste (C&DW) by 2030 and reducing 30% of C&DW generated per built square meter. The plan consists of 74 actions that will guide the transition in the Icelandic construction sector. Some of these actions are expected to lead to policies and regulations for increasing the circular economy in the construction sector.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Act (Skipulagsstofnun, 2000) ensures that before consent is granted for a construction project, it is ensured that the project will have no significant harm or effect on the environment. However, the average impact resulting from resource extraction and waste management within linear construction is not currently considered significant harm.
Iceland is developing a Decarbonisation Roadmap, and more information on their regulations in this field is anticipated later this year. As covered extensively in this report, reusing construction materials is a logical strategy for decarbonisation, depending on how the requirements and calculation methods are specified. This policy development may benefit from aligning with the legislation in neighbouring Nordic countries.
Iceland has no dedicated regulations promoting circularity in the construction sector and is somewhat behind in implementing enabling policies. The Roadmap Towards Sustainable Construction Report (Byggjum grænni framtíð, 2022) points out that the CE regulation on construction products makes it difficult to reuse the materials, as covered already in this report.
Norway has a range of policies addressing the circular economy in the construction sector. Both governmental policies and regulations, industry roadmaps in cooperation with public commissioners, and guides/educational material covering different aspects of circular economy in construction.
The Regulation on the documentation of construction products (Forskrift om dokumentasjon av byggevarer) (Kommunal- og distriktsdepartementet, 2022) is the national regulation for the documentation of construction products. It has historically been aimed at new construction products, but through revisions in 2022, the considerations for reused construction products have been included. The Norwegian Building Authority, DiBK, has also prepared a guide for reusing construction products to make it easier to understand these requirements. Testing and controlling the used materials remains challenging to ensure they comply with The Regulations on technical requirements for construction work (TEK 17). Therefore, there is ongoing work to prepare guides for different construction elements. There is one guide for bricks (EAD 170005-00-0305), another for steel, and the Norwegian standard NS 3682 for hollow-core slabs.
Regulations on technical requirements for construction works (TEK17) (Kommunal- og distriktsdepartementet, 2017) include several aspects influencing the possibilities for reuse: It requires plans for demolition of buildings to increase recycling and reuse. According to the regulation, a waste management plan must be prepared when constructing new buildings > 300 m2, rehabilitating or demolishing buildings > 100 m2, and when more than 10 tons of waste is produced. It also requires that 70 % of the construction waste be sorted and delivered to waste treatment facilities. This aim is to contribute to fewer toxins escaping, reduced construction waste, and increased reuse and recycling. Pre-demolition audits are required to identify and report on hazardous materials and materials applicable for reuse. The legislation further states that the selection of construction products for new buildings must consider the possibilities for reuse and recovery.
The Planning and Building Act (Kommunal- og distriktsdepartementet, 2008) requires appropriately managing waste. Changes according to Prop. 64L (2020-2021) were introduced to increase reuse and extend the lifespan of buildings. The government allows the municipalities to assess which requirements must be applied, allowing them, for example, to grant exceptions from some technical requirements related to rehabilitating old buildings.
One aspect highlighted in the national strategy for a circular economy is increasing innovation through incentives for more circular projects through public procurement climate- and environmental requirements. The construction sector is defined as a prioritised sector in this matter.
Norway also seeks to promote the reuse of construction products by employing life cycle assessment (LCA) calculations in the construction sector. In this regard, Norway grants preferential treatment to reused construction products by assigning a zero value to CO2 emissions in modules A1-A3 (which encompass raw materials, transportation, and manufacturing) while including emissions from modules A4/A5 (about transportation to the construction site and installation), based on the incorporation of either generic values sourced from a national database or precise emission calculations. Emissions related to the reuse preparation are included unless they can be considered negligible. For comprehensive details on how reused construction products are assessed in Norway and a comparative analysis with other Nordic countries, see Table 2.
Some stakeholders point out that the national regulations on technical requirements for construction works are not giving enough incentives for rehabilitation and efficient use of space. However, the national “Regulation on the documentation of construction products” (Forskrift om dokumentasjon av byggevarer (DOK)) is being revised to incentivise the reuse of construction products and ease the regulatory barriers. Documentation requirements on reused construction elements in DOK have eased effective July 1st, 2022. This means that other actors than the producer of the material to be reused can develop the required documentation.
Sweden has implemented several policies and strategies to promote a circular economy; some specifically address the construction sector. The Swedish national building regulations emphasise a performance-based approach for finished construction works rather than prescribing detailed specifications for individual products. The builder is responsible for selecting suitable products for each project, utilising available information on construction products to make informed decisions (Boverket, 2011a, 2011b). Newly produced products covered by a harmonised standard must be CE-marked. For newly produced products with a CE marking or with a European Technical Assessment, the Declaration of Performance (DoP) usually provide the necessary information. However, alternative methods for assessing product properties may be utilised for products not covered by a harmonised technical specification, which is often the case for reused construction products.
The Planning and Building Act (Sveriges Riksdag, 2010) was issued in 2010 and last amended in 2022. It contains provisions on land and water planning and construction. The requirements aim to promote societal development with equal and good social living conditions and a good and long-term sustainable living environment for today's society and future generations. The builder must ensure a control plan for inspecting a construction or demolition activity. This control plan must include how the waste is to be managed, particularly how it is intended to enable reuse and high-quality material recovery, as well as the removal and safe handling of hazardous substances.
The Regulation on climate declarations was developed by Boverket in 2011, targeting new construction. It requires the builder to declare the climate impact of the new building, with only a few exemptions (Sveriges Riksdag, 2011). The aim is to improve transparency and to reduce the climate impact of buildings (Klimatdeklaration för byggnader) (Boverket, 2020).
Sweden decided grants preferential treatment to reused construction products by assigning a zero value to CO2 emissions in modules A1-A3 (which encompass raw materials, transportation, and manufacturing) while including emissions from module A4/A5 (about transportation to the construction site and installation), based on the incorporation of either generic values sourced from a national database or precise emission calculations. For comprehensive details on how reused construction products are assessed in Sweden and a comparative analysis with other Nordic countries, see Table 2.
Boverket, the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, has been commissioned by the Swedish Government in 2022 to submit proposals for the limit values for the climate impact of buildings and further proposals on how to expand the application of climate declarations. As part of this assignment, Boverket submitted a final report on “Limit values for the climate impact of buildings and an expanded climate declaration” and a legislative proposal on limit values for the climate impact of buildings in May 2023 (Boverket, 2023). These limit values may be introduced at the earliest on 1st July 2025. The limit value applies to the maximum climate impact for modules A1-A5 in kg CO2e/m2 GFA from new buildings covered by the rules on climate declaration regulation. The limit value is proposed to cover all building components from the foundation and its insulation, excluding solar cells and fixed equipment.
Some stakeholders highlight the lack of standards for reused products as a regulatory barrier to circular building practices. The regulation, including harmonised standards, is not as developed as for newly produced products. This can make it difficult to know how to properly handle these materials so that they meet the building codes. Additionally, laws protecting health and safety can increase the time and effort required for deconstruction, as extra precautions may need to be taken to protect workers and the environment. Old buildings and materials may not meet current legislation related to issues such as acoustics, fire safety, and accessibility. This can further complicate the process, as the materials may need to be modernised, modified, or replaced to meet modern requirements.
The Swedish regulation aims to be technology and material-neutral. The regulation is open for the reuse of construction products as long as the product properties are assessed and fulfils the regulatory requirements. One barrier to the uptake of reuse is not legislative per se but rather a misunderstanding that reused construction products must be CE marked, even though most standards under the CPR do not cover reused products. Several market actors have perceived that only products assessed by certification and factory production control fulfil the requirements on known and documented properties. However, it is always possible for the builder to assess the relevant properties in any individual project to fulfil the requirements. The regulation also allows for systematic assessment of product properties through standards, certification schemes, or factory production control other than standards under the CPR; see specifically EKS Article 18 for structural products. The Swedish building authorities have aimed to clarify the current regulation through guidance. For structural products, detailed guidance on reuse is under development.
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European Commission. (2011b). Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011 laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32011R0305
European Commission. (2019a). COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS The European Green Deal. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52019DC0640&qid=1675069303325
European Commission. (2019b). REGULATION (EU) 2019/1021 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 June 2019 on persistent organic pollutants. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1021
European Commission. (2020a). Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/19 of 18 December 2020 laying down a common methodology and a format for reporting on reuse in accordance with Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Coun-cil. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/GA/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32021D0019
European Commission. (2020b). COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EURO-PEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS A new Circular Economy Action Plan For a cleaner and more competitive Europe. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1583933814386&uri=COM:2020:98:FIN
European Commission. (2020c). COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE RE-GIONS A New Industrial Strategy for Europe. https://commission.europa.eu/document/a0dfe54f-f8bb-46f7-8828-d58c1cd8efa8_en
European Commission. (2020d). DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2030. https://ec.europa.eu/environmentus2023-441.pdf8EAP/2020/10/8EAP-draft.pdf
European Commission. (2020e). Regulation (EU) 2020/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2020 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment, and amending Regulation (EU) 2019/2088. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32020R0852
European Commission. (2021a). COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Sustainable Europe Investment Plan European Green Deal Investment Plan. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52020DC0021&qid=1605785003487
European Commission. (2021b). Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the energy performance of buildings (recast). https://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:c51fe6d1-5da2-11ec-9c6c-01aa75ed71a1.0001.02/DOC_1&format=PDF
European Commission. (2022a). DIRECTIVE (EU) 2022/2464 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on 14 December 2022 amending Regulation (EU) No 537/2014, Directive 2004/109/EV, Directive 2006/43/EC and Directive 2013/34/EU, as regards corporate sustainability reporting. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32022L2464
European Commission. (2022b). Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52022PC0071
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European Commission. (2022e). REGULATION (EC) No 1907/2006 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, amending Directive 1999/45/EC and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1488/94 as well as Council Directive 76/769/EEC and Commission Directives 91/155/EEC, 93/67/EEC, 93/105/EC and 2000/21/EC. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02006R1907-20221217
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The following sections provide an overview of selected European legislation to contextualise the policy landscape which the Nordic national legislation operates within.
The European Green Deal (European Commission, 2019a) sets out several measures to be taken by the European Member States to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and to decouple economic growth from resource use through higher resource efficiency. The European Sustainable Investment Plan (European Commission, 2021a) is the investment pillar of the Green Deal.
Relevant to reuse:
The European Green Deal includes several initiatives to support the transition to a circular economy, including measures to reduce waste and promote the reuse and recycling of materials. The European Green Deal includes several targets and indicators to measure the European progress towards a circular economy, including indicators related to the reuse and recycling of materials and the reduction of waste in the construction sector (European Commission, 2022f). These indicators are based on EUROSTAT. Examples of indicators are the consumption of hazardous chemicals (tonnes), total waste generation (kg per capita), GHG emissions intensity of employment (t GHG / employed), R&D expenditure (% of GDP), Circular material use rate (% of material input for domestic use), raw material consumption (tonnes per capita), GHG emissions per sector (% of total gross GHG) among others.
The 4th Critical Raw Materials Communication from 2020 (European Commission, 2021a) is a roadmap towards critical raw materials resilience in the Member States. It presents an Critical Raw Material List (European Commission, n.d.-b) highlighting raw (mineral) materials considered of critical strategic importance to the Member states.
Relevant to reuse:
One way to achieve resource security and independence is to improve resource efficiency through the circular economy.
The Eight Environment Action Programme (European Commission, 2020d) is the long-term strategy which sets out the EU's environmental priorities and targets for the next decade.
Relevant to reuse:
The 8th EAP includes indicators of resource efficiency, waste prevention, and the transition to a circular economy. It establishes six priority objectives linked to the transition to a circular economy, zero-pollution, biodiversity restoration, and climate neutrality by 2050.
The Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe (European Commission, 2011a) sets out the EU's strategy for improving resource efficiency and includes resource use and waste prevention indicators.
Relevant to reuse:
Targets for resource efficiency and waste prevention are closely related to the circular economy and reuse of construction products.
The New Industrial Strategy for Europe (European Commission, 2020c) from 2020 focuses on better resource recovery from waste, better design of new products, functioning markets for secondary raw materials and the production & sharing of data about products and secondary raw materials that inform purchasing and consumption behaviour.
Relevant to reuse:
The New Industrial Strategy for Europe aims to minimise the usage of raw materials and maximise the use of secondary raw materials. The strategy suggests regulating product design and creating economic incitements for the industry to reuse and develop more coherent value chains.
Level(s) (European Commission, n.d.-c) is a voluntary reporting framework for the property sector that helps building owners and developers assess and improve the environmental performance of their buildings. Level(s) has a set of indicators which provide an overview of the building's environmental performance, including indicators related to the circular economy, such as material reuse and recycling, design for adaptability and disassembly, energy and water efficiency and waste management. Level(s) defines what the European Commission considers sustainable construction and provides thorough documentation for practitioners and policymakers. Level(s) is the framework on which the Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities is based; hence policies and building projects are aligned with the European strategy described in the Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities if they comply with the Level(s) framework (European Commission, 2021c). Level(s) resembles certification schemes but does not include benchmarks or certificates and is free to use.
Relevant to reuse:
Level(s) uses a life-cycle assessment (LCA) approach to evaluate the environmental impacts of a building over its entire life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to the end of its useful life. Level(s) promotes the use of circular economy principles in the construction industry by encouraging the reuse and recycling of materials and the reduction of waste. Particularly macro-objective two focuses on circular material lifecycles, with the following four indicators:
2.1 Bill of quantities, materials and lifespans
2.2 Construction & demolition waste and materials
2.3 Design for adaptability and renovation
2.4 Design for deconstruction, reuse and recycling
The Level(s) documentation provides thorough manuals, guidelines, online resources, and definitions related to reuse in all lifecycle stages, and these documents would be the ideal place to begin when revising or developing new technical specifications for construction.
Eurostat (Eurostat, n.d.-b) is the European Union (EU) statistical office that collects and disseminates statistical information on various topics, including economy, population, environment, and energy. It maintains many databases that provide detailed information on the EU's economy and society, including most datasets previously mentioned. These macro indicator databases can be used by policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders to monitor trends and track progress on various issues related to the circular economy in the construction sector.
Relevant to reuse:
Most European monitoring frameworks refer to datasets from Eurostat, including the Circular Economy Monitoring Framework described below. While it may provide several proxies, the Eurostat datasets do not include any data on reuse rates within construction.
The Circular Economy Monitoring Framework (Eurostat, n.d.-a) is a EUROSTAT-based monitoring framework that tracks the progress of the European Member States towards a circular economy. It includes a set of indicators to measure the performance of European Member States on a range of issues related to the circular economy. Indicators are categorised under 1) production and consumption, 2) waste management, 3) secondary raw material, and 4) competitiveness and innovation. Production and consumption indicators include waste generation, green public procurement, and European self-sufficiency for raw materials. Waste management indicators include recycling rates for packaging and recycling rates of construction and demolition waste (%). Relevant secondary raw materials indicators are trade in recyclable raw materials and the contribution of recycled materials to raw materials demand. Finally, competitiveness and innovation indicators are private investment, jobs and value added to circular economy sectors and the number of patents related to recycling and secondary raw materials.
Relevant to reuse:
While the current datasets can provide indications of, e.g., how mature the market is for reused construction products in the Member States, there is currently no direct monitoring of the reuse rates of construction products.
The Raw Material Scoreboard (Joint Research Centre, 2023) is an European monitoring framework that tracks the supply and demand of critical raw materials in the EU. It provides an overview of the EU's dependency on imported raw materials and follows the resource efficiency trends and sustainable consumption of raw materials.
Relevant to reuse:
The Raw Materials Scoreboard monitors the performance of European Member States on various indicators related to raw materials, including indicators related to the circular economy. As with Eurostat, there is no direct monitoring of the reuse of construction products.
The European Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities (European Commission, 2020e) is a classification system that helps investors and companies to identify and invest in environmentally sustainable economic activities. It defines criteria for determining whether an action is environmentally sustainable and promotes the use of circular economy principles by encouraging waste reduction and materials reuse and recycling.
Relevant to reuse:
The Taxonomy is still under development at the time of writing. However, the final Taxonomy will include several criteria for determining the circularity of economic activities, including the reuse and recycling of materials and the reduction of waste.
The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (European Commission, 2022a) establishes, improves and replaces the current Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). It introduces mandatory environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting requirements for companies listed and operating in Europe - depending on their size and form - from 2024 onwards. The CSRD aims to increase the accessibility and quality of ESG reporting and the comparability between companies and the European Member States. It is expected to contribute to a more resource-efficient economy.
Relevant to reuse:
Companies must publicly disclose impacts on environmental factors such as climate change, pollution and resource use and the circular economy. The CSRD requires companies to measure and monitor their environmental footprint, for example, through LCAs. Since the reuse of construction products is expected to improve the environmental performance of buildings, the CSRD can be expected to incentivise the reuse of construction products for industries.
The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (European Commission, 2022b) is a proposal by the Commission to establish a harmonised legal framework for corporate due diligence. It aims to foster sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour and includes a liability mechanism. It applies to large companies above a certain number of employees and turnover, with lower thresholds for companies operating in high-risk sectors for social and environmental harm (e.g. mineral resources). The CSDD covers the companies’ operations along the entire value chain, including adverse impacts from raw material mining and production stages outside the EU. The Commission adopted the proposal in 2022 and is currently negotiating with the European Parliament and the Council.
Relevant to reuse:
As with the CSRD, the CSDD will incentivise the reuse of construction products as reuse will improve the environmental performance of companies.
The New European Bauhaus Initiative (European Commission, n.d.-d) aims to foster climate-friendly architecture. The European policy initiative aims to foster a new generation of sustainable and inclusive buildings and neighbourhoods.
Relevant to reuse:
The New European Bauhaus initiative promotes the use of circular economy principles in the construction industry by encouraging the reuse and recycling of materials and the reduction of waste.
The Circular Economy Action Plan and The New Circular Economy Action Plan (European Commission, 2020b), of which construction is a priority area, aim to transform the European market into a more circular economy by promoting resource efficiency and reducing waste. It includes indicators such as recycling rates and the use of renewable resources. The CEAP aims to develop the Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) to improve data availability on secondary raw materials and support EU-wide research on raw materials flow.
Relevant to reuse:
The Circular Economy Action Plan sets out several specific actions to be taken by the Commission and the European Member States to support the transition to a circular economy, including measures to increase the reuse and recycling of materials, reduce waste, and support the development of circular business models. The New Circular Economy Action Plan sets out several new initiatives to further support the transition to a circular economy in the EU, including measures to support the development of circular business models and the adoption of circular practices in critical sectors, including construction.
The Renovation Wave (European Commission, n.d.-a) aims to make existing buildings more energy efficient. It accelerates the renovation of buildings in Europe to improve environmental performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Relevant to reuse:
Under the Renovation Wave, one action was to make a Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the European building stock. It promotes the use of circular economy principles in the construction industry by encouraging the reuse and recycling of materials and the reduction of waste. The Renovation Wave aims to at least double the renovation rates from 2020 to 2030 and ensure that renovation leads to higher energy and resource efficiency.
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) (European Commission, 2010) promotes improving the energy performance of buildings. It is supported by a set of standards and technical reports managed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN). The EPBD is under revision, and the European Commission published a proposal in 2021 (European Commission, 2021b).
Relevant to reuse:
The revision of the EPBD aims to match energy performance with resource efficiency, circularity and sustainability to set the pathway for a zero-emission and fully decarbonised building stock by 2050. The proposal considers the entire life-cycle performance of buildings, including GHG emissions from raw material extraction, material production and processing, the buildings’ operational stage and the end-of-life. Amendments by the European Commission to this proposal include considerations of the benefits of reuse and recycling at the end-of-life and request to link the directive to the New European Bauhaus Initiative, promoting renovation and adaptive reuse to enhance circularity (European Parliament, 2023).
The POPs Regulation (European Commission, 2019b) aims to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs), hazardous organic substances that persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms. It establishes control measures such as the prohibition and restriction of POPs, the safe management of POPs and the disposal of contaminated waste. The POPs regulation implements the Stockholm Convention and the Aarhus Protocol in the EU.
Relevant to reuse:
The amendment of Directive 2008/98/EC on waste enhanced the selective demolition and sorting of construction waste. It ensures the safe handling of hazardous waste and facilitates reuse and high-quality recycling (European Decontamination Institute, 2021).
The Waste Framework Directive (European Commission, 2008) is an European directive that sets out several European principles and objectives for managing waste. It promotes waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and recovery and encourages the adoption of circular economy principles in waste management. The Waste Framework Directive includes several targets for waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and recovery, including targets specifically related to the construction sector. The Directive is currently under revision.
Relevant to reuse:
Since 2020 new obligations to report on the volume and facilities of reuse of construction products have been introduced. The Commission has implemented a decision (EU) 2021/19 of 18 December 2020 (European Commission, 2020a), laying down a standard methodology and a format for reporting on reuse per Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council. There, reuse is defined as “any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived” (European Commission, 2008).
The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) (European Commission, 2011b) lays out harmonised standards for construction products (declared with the CE-marking). The revision of the Construction Products Regulation is underway, and a proposal for a revised version was published already in 2022 (European Commission, 2022d). The revision aims to improve the functioning of the construction products' internal market, enhance their sustainability, and introduce other health, safety, and environmental requirements. The revision aims to make construction products more durable, recyclable, repairable, and accessible to re-manufacture.
Relevant to reuse:
Obtaining CE marks for reused products is challenging because of the high requirements for content documentation and product uniformity. This makes it very difficult to trade used construction products on the European market and creates several issues regarding allocating responsibility. However, one company in Denmark has obtained a CE mark on the process for preparation for reuse (by first obtaining an ETA), which creates a possibility for documenting and trading reused construction products in the future. Some discussions have been going on whether reused products may be outside CPR because they have already previously been launched in the European market.
The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) (European Commission, 2022c) builds on the existing Ecodesign Directive (European Commission, 2009), which only covers energy-related products, including construction products such as lighting, electrical doors, and windows. It will cover almost all categories of physical goods and includes targeted sectoral initiatives on priority areas such as construction goods. The specific Ecodesign requirements for construction will be laid down under the revised CPR, except for energy-related construction products, which the Ecodesign Directive already covers.
Relevant to reuse:
The current proposal from March 2022 enlarges the scope of the application. It establishes a framework for Ecodesign requirements for specific product groups to significantly improve their circularity, including durability, reusability, upgradability and reparability. It will also allow setting information requirements, including a Digital Product Passport.
EUROCODES (Joint Research Centre, n.d.) are a series of 10 European Standards (EN 1990 – EN 1999) for the design of buildings, civil engineering works and construction products. They serve as a recommended reference for technical specifications in public contracts, replacing national standards. Amongst other aspects, they cover technical specifications on structural safety, serviceability, and durability. Even though Eurocodes are established European standards, they operate nationally.
Relevant to reuse:
In some Member States, such as Denmark, they are the only legal design basis according to the building regulations. This means that load-bearing or reused structural construction products must follow this regulation (Lendager, 2021).
The next generation of Eurocodes is expected in 2026, introducing new requirements for assessing, reusing and retrofitting existing structures.
The European Commission established the REACH (EG) nr 1907/2006 constitution (European Commission, 2022e) to protect people and the environment from chemical hazards. The acronym REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals. A building product must notify the European Chemicals Agency if it contains a substance listed under REACH and is present in a concentration greater than 0.1 weight per cent. (ECHA).
Relevant to reuse:
Builders are responsible for ensuring the safety of construction products, but this can be challenging when older materials are reused and their chemical makeup is unknown.
Authors: Simon Kaarsberg and Lea Kress (Norion Consult)
Other contributors (editing):
The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning
Norwegian Building Authority
Ministry of Environment, Finland
Housing and Construction Authority, Iceland
The Danish Authority of Social Services and Housing
© Nordic Innovation 2023
Layout: Erling Lynder
Coverphoto: Rémi Carreiro
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