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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Potential for a circular built environment: Evaluating and enabling informed raw-material circularity in the UK construction sector

The construction sector is rapidly expanding as a response to population, housing shortage and aging infrastructure. While being a driver of socioeconomic progress, large ecologically detrimental impacts of construction stem from linear consumption, value depletion and waste disposal across raw material lifecycles. Affordable infrastructure, in alignment with sustainability targets via resilient supply chains require material value management and consumption optimization through closed loop raw material flows. Research and industry effort has focused on operational emissions, and circularity through recycling and functional downgrade of materials, compelling a need to address ecological degradation and emissions from extraction-production, embodied emissions (EE), and disposal. A review of current industry mechanism for material circularity, enabling tools and frameworks in conjunction with United Kingdom government commitments towards Net-Zero emissions housing, exposed barriers to circular raw material markets. These exist across disciplinary interfaces in the form of regulatory voids, fragmentation of value chains and lack of integration between multi-disciplinary processes, which is detrimental to innovation. This research proposes a framework to evaluate the drivers of circularity potential across material-specific lifecycles, exploring intervention at vital cross-sectoral interfaces, propelling material value management and consumption optimization. It establishes the need for designed demolition and procurement, regulation enabling value transfer through integrated supply chains and cross-sectoral interaction as pathways to material efficiency through circularity. The case of circularity is strengthened via its economic and sustainability benefits, backed by policy and industrial mechanisms.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.