Circular Economy in the Construction Sector – the Norwegian case

Norway is the country that has already reached a high level of performance in the transition process from linear to circular economy model. The resource-saving potential of the construction sector has been acknowledged in Norway almost 20 years ago when the first national Action plan (NHP1) was initiated by the Federation of Norwegian Construction Industries (BNL) in 2001. Before that approximately 80% of the construction waste ended at a landfill, in 2018 more than 80% of the construction waste are recycled. The main goal third national Action plan (NHP3) is that all construction waste should be sought minimized and secured as high as possible recycling and proper handling, with a special focus on resource and energy recovery. Good examples in this regard are recycled wood used for energy recovery in incinerators and the use of recycled concrete as noise embankment (Linda Høibye and Henrik Sand, 2018).

Waste management in the construction sector in Norway is already well developed – the Building Regulation (TEK) requires the preparation of waste plans before new construction, renovation or demolition starts.  In that last case, an environmental assessment plan needs to be developed to identify and remove hazardous waste separately. The Building regulation also sets thresholds for waste separation and recovery minimum of 60% by weight of the construction waste shall be separated into different types of waste at the site of construction and delivered to an approved waste-collecting facility or to a resource recovery facility).  Of course, the circular economy is far more than proper waste handling and circular transition of the sector needs to take its momentum.  To accelerate this process Norwegian experts highlights possible instruments:

  • Stricter documentation requirements for all building products used for new construction. This with the intent to make the building materials more traceable and consequently increase the amount of reused building materials in the construction sector.
  • Expanding the requirement for a waste plan in the building legislation to apply for all buildings (Technical building regulation (TEK) § 9–6).
  • Increasing the recycling rate demand from building and construction waste, and the requirement of a certain content of secondary resources in new products. This implies adopting stricter recycling goals in the waste legislation, which again has to be implemented in the building legislation.
  • Enhancing competencies within a circular economy by focusing more on the industrial symbiosis between industries, not just within the construction sector.

At present Norwegian path to a circular economy is laid down in the strategy for green competitiveness Better growth, lower emissions adopted in 2017 which aims to strengthen green competitiveness and transforming Norway into a low-emission society. However, the work to develop a strategy dedicated to Norwegian circular transformation already has begun. In addition, several industries have drawn up roadmaps defining steps towards a circular economy in their sectors and presented them as input to the expert committee on green competitiveness, and the building sector is one of them. The roadmap includes recommendations for both immediate and longer-term measures that building owners and the authorities can implement and one of the most important regards is flexibility, so the building can be adapted to new needs without major alterations. The Federation of Norwegian Construction Industries has prioritized circular economy in their activities and identify possible processes and actions in construction, renovation, and demolition where circular potential can be unlocked.

The circular transition in the construction sector in Norway had a very solid ground prepared by the well established waste and recovery management, the path to take right now is to move further and close the loop, developing circular sector strategies, unlocking new value chains and cooperation models and transforming them into daily operation of Norwegian businesses.

Author: Yulia Marchuk


Nordic Council of Ministers. (2018). Circular Economy in the Nordic Construction Sector: Identification and assessment of potential policy instruments that can accelerate a transition toward a circular economy. TemaNord 2018: 517.  http://dx.doi.org/10.6027/TN2018-517

Norwegian Building Authority. (2017). Regulations on technical requirements for construction works (TEK). Retrieved from: https://dibk.no/globalassets/byggeregler/regulation-on-technical-requirements-for-construction-works–technical-regulations.pdf

NHPs Sekretariat. (2017). Handlingsplan 2017 – 2020 Nasjonal handlingsplan for bygg- og anleggsavfall (NHP4). Retrieved from:  http://www.byggemiljo.no/nasjonal-handlingsplan-for-bygg-og-anleggsavfall-2017-2020-nhp4-er-klar/

Norwegian Circular Economy Benchmark 2017, Deloitte http://info.deloitte.no/rs/777-LHW-455/images/20180313_Norwegian%20Circular%20Economy%20Benchmark%202017.pdf?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTm1VMlpqVTJOREl5WlRZMSIsInQiOiJFS3oxWlMzaHlScjd4Q09uSUJHVENLR1wva2M2T3NuZWk2S2tPQmVtS1wvWlwvbmV3eEY0YlVSNElXUk1oNWl0NlJ1K3pidHlhV25VenV1T2FDTWlcL0p6UWlZSlkxdXNWc1F6YVFpVTY0Tlg5c3BBcSs2UUNublJJOWNwR01hbjY5TEQifQ%3D%3D

BNLs analyse Sirkulær økonomi i byggenæringen http://www.bygg.no/article/1393852