Sector-wide Circularity Assessment
for the construction sector
Vallès Occidental

Introduction

The EU Horizon 2020 funded CityLoops project focuses on closing the material loops of two central sectors of any city in terms of material flows, societal needs and employment, namely the construction and biomass sectors. Due to their sizes, they represent a considerable opportunity for cities to transform their metabolism and economy towards a more circular state.

Within this project, seven European cities, amongst those also the City of Vallès Occidental are planning to implement demonstration actions to kickstart their circularity journey. To better understand what the current circularity status quo is, as well as the impact of these actions, and the efforts needed to transform their sector, a Sector-Wide Circularity Assessment method was developed. This method combines a circular city and circular sector definition, a material flow and stock accounting method, as well as circularity indicators. The sector itself was defined in terms of a number of representative materials that make up a large share of the sector and associated economic activities. The construction sector is made up of 11 materials, depicted as icons here, which were studied along the entirety of their supply chains. Altogether, these elements help to set a solid knowledge and analytical foundation to develop future circularity roadmaps and action plans.

Aluminium
Bitumen / asphalt
Bricks
Concrete
Glass
Gypsum
Insulation
Iron (steel)
Sand and gravel
Soil
Timber

The assessment was carried out by the cities themselves after receiving extensive training in the form of courses on data collection (construction and biomass) and data processing. Numerous additional insights can be found in the individual Data Hubs of each city.

This current Sector-Wide Circularity Assessment report provides contextual information on the city and the economic sector under study. It then illustrates how circular these sectors are through circularity indicators and a Sankey diagram. Finally, it analyses and interprets the results, presents the limitations from the data used and offers recommendations about how to make this sector more circular.

(* The italic texts in this report were written by Metabolism of Cities' Aristide Athanassiadis and Carolin Bellstedt. They provide relevant general information and serve as connecting elements of the single report parts.)

Urban context

To contextualise the results of the sector-wide circularity assessment, this section provides population and land use information data of the city. In addition, population and area of the city under study, as well as its corresponding NUTS3, NUTS2 and country were included. Data for these scales were added to better understand how relevant and important the approximations are when downscaling data from these scales to a city level.

Vallès Occidental
1A
1B
Barcelona
2A
2B
Cataluña
3A
3B
Spain
4A
4B

Population of Vallès Occidental

5A 5B

Land use

6A 6B

Economic context of construction sector

This section puts into perspective the economic context of the sector under study. It describes how many people are employed in this sector, as well as who the main actors involved (from all lifecycle stages for the sector’s materials) are.

GDP (monetary value, in €) Employees
Vallès Occidental 7A 7B
Barcelona 8A 8B
Cataluña 9A 9B
Spain 10A 10B

The construction sector in Vallès Occidental

11

The actors of the construction sector

12A 12B

Indicators

To monitor the progress of this economic sector towards circularity, a number of indicators were proposed and measured. Altogether, these indicators depict several facets of circularity of the sector. As such, they need to be considered in combination rather than in isolation when assessing circularity. In addition, these indicators can be compared to other cities or spatial scales (such as the country level). However, this has to be done with great care and use of the contextual elements in the previous sections of the report. Finally, the value measured from these indicators can be traced over time to track the sector’s progress towards circularity.

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Visualisations

Measuring circularity is a data heavy exercise. Numerous datasets were collected and visualised throughout the sector-wide circularity assessment process. To synthesise these findings, a Sankey diagram illustrates how material flows from the studied economic sector are circulating from one lifecycle stage to another. The height of each line is proportional to the weight of the flow. This diagram therefore helps to quickly have an overview of all the materials flows that compose the sector and their respective shares. The flows that are coloured in light blue in the Sankey diagram, are return flows. This means that they flow in the opposite direction of the lifecycle stages and are subjected to reuse, redistribution, or remanufacturing. Their size relative to the others is a good indication for the materials' circularity.

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