Understanding the Existential Requirement of Circularity

Circularity is more than a buzzword. It has become a necessity. The linear take-make-waste product lifecycle that characterizes our extractive economy must shift to a circular economy to slow climate change threats by better managing resources and reducing the carbon emissions associated with resource extraction and waste. Recognizing that a more circular business model is critical for protecting our planet, Kingspan is embedding circularity into every aspect of how we develop our products and how we drive operations.

A circular economy is defined as “a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution. It is underpinned by a transition to renewable energy and materials. A circular economy decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. It is a resilient system that is good for business, people and the environment.”

In a world of finite resources, transitioning to a circular economy is critical for reducing material use and waste and keeping products in circulation for as long as possible. Circularity is especially important in the global construction sector which is responsible for 37% of global energy-related carbon emissions and accounts for approximately 40% of global resource demand.An estimated 30% of waste produced annually is through the process of construction and demolition. To make matters worse, more than 35% of that waste is disposed of in landfills.

Kingspan is advancing circularity in the construction industry by contributing to circular buildings. Through our LIFECycle Product Circularity Framework (Lean and Circular design, Input Materials, Factory Processes, Extended Life Models and Cycling) which targets every stage of the product life cycle, we are working to make our entire product portfolio more sustainable.

Case in point: circularity in operational models

Lightweight, high performing QuadCore® insulated panels are an example of lean design. Fewer of these thinner panels need to be used to achieve the same U-value as twice as thick mineral wall fiber panels.

Kingspan is also reducing the use of virgin materials in our manufacturing process, upcycling PET bottles to make QuadCore® insulation. Over the last two years, Kingspan Group has upcycled 573 million PET bottles into our manufacturing processes.

We are also working to establish partnerships to ensure 100% of waste we generate is repurposed and/or recycled. Kingspan Insulated Panels North America is partnering with two companies to recycle steel from panels, foam, plastic and wood/cardboard waste generated from our DeLand, Florida, plant. These recycled materials find new life in a variety of materials and products such as cement fill, ceiling tiles and panel products.

Case in point: circularity in construction

The UpCycle office in Austin, Texas is an excellent example of circularity in construction. Built on the site of a former recycling center, the building was constructed repurposing 95% of the original 1972 building. The building skin was turned inside out to reveal its natural finish and insulated with Kingspan KarrierPanel to ensure an energy-efficient envelope.

Following the circular principle of reducing material use, construction of the Harold Alfond Recreation and Athletics Center at Colby College in Waterville, Maine used Kingspan’s QuadCore® panel system which reduced the number of fixings and amount of secondary steel required, enabling the elimination of 22.7 tons of steel support girts from the building structure.

At a time when our take-make-waste economy consumes 100 billion tons of materials a year and wastes over 90%, circular business operations and construction practices are now existential requirements, vital for reducing damaging greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the devastating impacts of climate change.

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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