A circular business ecosystem approach towards achieving high value use of salvaged building materials in the Dutch built environment

The case of Dutch demolition contractors

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Like Industrial Ecology research makes use of the analogy between closed-loop systems in nature and material flows in the economy, business ecosystem literature uses the analogy of ecosystems to explain cross-industry cooperative behavior. Regarding the Circular Economy transition, a circular business ecosystem can be defined as ‘a set of actors that jointly work towards achieving the collective outcome of closing, narrowing, slowing or generating the loop on resources establish a circular innovation (e.g. product or service), initiative or project’. The creation of a circular business ecosystem involves new configurations of value chains, actor roles and the application of new circular economy business models. However, there is a lack of understanding of networks and cooperation required to operate circular strategies in the Dutch built environment. Using an ecosystem lens for analyzing circular operations can aid to close this gap. Therefore, the main question of this research is: How can high value reuse and recycling of salvaged building materials and components be achieved in the Dutch C&D environment, following a circular business ecosystem perspective? To apply a circular business ecosystem perspective, an established 6C-framework for analyzing IoT-business ecosystems is extended to a framework to analyze circular business ecosystems. This was done by an extensive literature review on circular (business) ecosystems. Subsequently, the circular business ecosystem lens was used to identify the ecosystemic collaborations of demolition companies that are present to achieve high value reuse and recycling of salvaged building materials. This was done by a case study analysis of four demolition contractors to provide an final overview. A hybrid coding strategy was used to retrieve meaningful information from the data. From the data results that the demolition contractors have constituted several circular value chains and engaged in several circular demolition (and construction) projects. The projects can be categorized as temporary business ecosystems, while the circular value chains are characterized as enduring circular business ecosystems. Regarding the main research question there are several insights. First, high value direct application and processing of salvaged materials is most preferable achieved locally from both an environmental and cost perspective. Second, achieving this involves early-contractor collaboration in circular projects (e.g. of construction and demolition contractors, architects and clients in the design phase) to discuss the technical and financial feasibility of applying salvaged materials from old to new constructions. In these collaborations and open, transparent and cooperative attitude is required. Last, achieving (local) high value direct application of salvaged materials requires matchmaking, preferable before dismantling. If no early matchmaking takes place, architects can create flexible designs with respect to material choice, leaving space to exploit future opportunities of salvaged material release. Besides, there are options to further handle and process salvaged materials in (local) circular value chains.