Identifying Key Barriers and Potential Strategies for Implementing Circular Infrastructure Assets: A Client-Contractor Perspective at Schiphol Airport

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Abstract

The CE concept is a booming theme, and the attention on this subject is increasing every year. However, the increasing attention on this theme has not yet been translated into practice within the infrastructure sector to a sufficient degree. While much literature has been published on the topic of CE, no analysis on the identification of barriers and strategies for circular infrastructure assets was conducted prior to this study. To provide a theoretical framework for this thesis, all literature focusing on CE barriers and strategies for the construction sector is systematically analyzed. This theoretical framework consisted primarily of barriers and strategies that were attained from studies on circular buildings (including residential buildings, commercial buildings, and other types of building property), as this theme was most common in the current CE literature. To extend the knowledge of CE, and gain insights into the key barriers and potential strategies for circular infrastructure assets, an in-depth single case study was performed at Schiphol Airport. The view of practitioners and experts within this field was obtained to get a clear overview on the barriers and strategies present in this unexamined sector. According to these practitioners and experts, numerous key barriers and potential strategies within the economic, organizational, sociological, regulatory, technical, and environmental categories are present. The analysis of the interviews resulted in the identification of 24 barriers and 20 strategies for increasing the circularity of infrastructure assets at Schiphol Airport. It was noted that some of the identified barriers and strategies were mentioned more often during the interviews than others. The outdated and conservative nature is strongly interconnected between the most mentioned barriers. They share aspects of outdated institutional factors (strict guidelines & certification requirements) and conservative behavior. Furthermore, the CE approach's unreadiness (low virgin prices and a lack of financial incentives) is frequently the reason why this approach is not yet profitable and, as a result, is not widely used. Although the circular approach is technically feasible, these restrictions withhold the CE from thriving for infrastructure assets. That said, multiple strategies for the enhancement of circular infrastructure assets are identified as well. Commonly stated by the professionals and experts in the field was the enhancement of communication. According to the participants of the interviews, the existence of an information gap between the stakeholders involved in the processes for infrastructure asset construction and maintenance needs to be cleared. In addition, the method of allocating materials to infrastructure assets must be reconsidered. Experts commonly address that by supplying a limited variety of materials and imposing a limit on these materials; the designer is forced into circular thinking. Meanwhile, this thesis partly confirmed previous authors’ analysis of what CE barriers and strategies are for the broader construction sector. The reason is that some barriers and or strategies are applicable to the CE concept in general. For instance, the lacking CE awareness, which forms a great barrier to the implementation of circular infrastructure assets, is present in all industries in which circular novelty plays a part. Thus, it can be stated that, in line with other industries within the construction domain, the infrastructure sector is not yet able to become fully circular due to the existence of numerous barriers. However, by exposing the existence of these barriers, as this study aimed for, these barriers will be given more attention individually, which in turn will lead to a better understanding of how to tackle this issue. Furthermore, the strategies resulting from this thesis will allow for a better, clearer understanding of overcoming these barriers.