Historically the construction industry has relied on a linear model to source construction materials, accounting for the consumption of 40% of materials globally. The environmental effects over the past decade of this inefficient use of resources and the waste generated has led to a change of focus in the construction industry. Both circular economy and lean construction practices are options to address these problems.

A circular economy concept aims to reduce, reuse, and recycle to more effectively address the volume of waste generated by the construction industry. The concept of lean thinking, which was developed for the automotive industry, looks to eliminate waste during the process, to become more efficient, agile and flexible. The similarity in these concepts begs the question, what relationship is there between lean construction and circular economy practices?

A new paper for the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management seeks to identify the positive and negative interactions for both practices -- circular economy and lean construction. “Interactions between Lean Construction Principles and Circular Economy Practices for the Construction Industry,” by Gabriel Luiz Fritz Benachio; Maria do Carmo Duarte Freitas, Ph.D.; and Sergio Fernando Tavares, Ph.D., uses a relationship analysis to create a matrix between both subjects. Read their findings and how these concepts can be applied in the abstract below, or by reading the full paper in the ASCE Library.


With the recurrent challenge of scarcity of resources in the world, the construction industry has been giving more attention to sustainability over the last decades, given that this industry is responsible for a big percentage of waste generated daily as well as a large amount of natural resources extraction. This high use of natural resources happens because the construction industry still uses the linear economy of “take-use-dispose,” which disposes a high amount of material in the end-of-life stage of a building. Opposed to that traditional process, the circular economy (CE) looks to better manage the building materials and consider them as valuable resources after the end-of-life of a building, reducing the amount of waste created. Similarly, the concept of lean construction (LC) looks to improve the value of the building, reducing waste, and improving productivity in construction, and has been studied since the nineties. Their synergies make their combination likely to bring benefits for the construction industry; however, this blend of concepts has not been extensively studied in the built environment, making it interesting to investigate it. The objective of this research was to find the interactions, positive or not, between the CE practices and the LC principles, using the method of content analysis to create a matrix of relationships that found a total of 74 interactions, 70 positive and 4 negatives. From these interactions, the LC principle of “reducing the share of non-value-adding activities” had the biggest number of interactions with CE practices, the practice of “off-site construction” had the biggest number of interactions with LC principles, and the construction stage was the life cycle phase that averaged the biggest number of interactions. Finally, it was possible to identify an optimal project sequence that took use of the CE practices that had the most LC principles incorporated into them.

Read the full paper in the ASCE Library: https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0002082