Circular economy in construction industry – integrating demolition and construction

To decrease the amount of waste or to transform waste into value-added products, we need new technologies, processes, and value chains, which help make our economy and society more sustainable and circular.
Unfinished big building and a crane.

The value streams and productization theme of the University of Oulu InStreams Hub focuses on developing sustainable value chains, business models and business ecosystems, as well as responsible business practices and productization and commercialization of novel technological solutions.

The construction sector is one of the largest producers of waste and CO2 emissions globally. As an EU member, Finland was committed to utilizing 70% of construction and demolition waste by 2020. Unfortunately, the current utilization rate in Finland is still less than 60%. A total of 85% of construction and demolition waste comes from repair projects and the demolition of buildings, while the remaining 15% of waste is generated from new construction.

In urban environment, construction typically begins with a demolition project to get rid of old buildings. Simultaneously, at the construction site there is demand for rock materials to build new infrastructure, such as streets, light traffic lanes, parking lots, and noise barriers. Currently, the demolition waste is not processed and utilized on site. Instead, it is transported, processed, and transported back to the site or to another location. This extra transportation causes unnecessary costs and CO2 emissions due to the use of heavy trucks which also cause traffic jams and wear and tear of streets.

These problems are addressed in a collaboration that researchers from the University of Oulu’s Faculty of Technology (Civil Engineering, Fibre and Particle Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Management) and Oulu Business School have established with Oulu University of Applied Sciences and companies. The aim is to create new processes and value chains that integrate demolition and construction to enable sustainability and circularity transition in the construction industry. The problem is approached from multiple angles including technical, environmental, business, and social aspects.

This multi-disciplinary collaboration aims to study and develop new methods, processes, and ways of working that will also be tested in practice. These innovative practices can enable processing demolition materials on-site or nearby, which advances circularity and eliminates the need for extra transportation. In order to achieve these goals, the researchers from different fields will conduct value chain and life cycle analyses of selected demolition and construction projects, develop circular project practices for integrating demolition and construction, as well as conduct laboratory tests for demolition materials to ensure their recyclability, quality, and safety. The research team will also execute and analyze several demolition pilots, and study how to support the circularity and sustainability transition in the construction industry.

This new initiative provides a practical example of multi-disciplinary research conducted at the University of Oulu InStreams hub to advance circular economy. In addition to technical and engineering research, environment, social and business aspects are vital to consider. The sustainability challenge in construction industry is difficult and complex to solve, but in case of success we have an excellent opportunity to make built environment and construction in general more sustainable and circular industry in the future.


Associate Professor (Tenure Track)
Industrial Engineering and Management
University of Oulu

Jukka Majava is an associate professor (tenure track) in industrial engineering and management. He has research interests in sustainable operations and supply chain management, innovation, business networks, and circular economy.

Asta Salmi photo
Department of Marketing, Management and International Business
Oulu Business School
University of Oulu

Asta Salmi is a professor at the Department of Marketing, Management, and International Business at Oulu Business School. Her research focuses on business networks and their dynamics, cross-sector collaboration, research collaboration, and sustainable supply chains.

Photo of Tuula Lehtimäki
Senior Research Fellow
Department of Marketing, Management and International Business
University of Oulu

Tuula Lehtimäki has focused her research on industrial marketing, including topics such as commercialization of innovations, business relationships, and change of business networks toward sustainability. She has a broad experience of different types of research projects with academic and industrial partners.

Tero Luukkonen
Associate Professor
Fibre and Particle Engineering
University of Oulu

Tero Luukkonen is an Assistant Professor at the Fibre and Particle Engineering Research Unit.

Anne Tuomela
University Lecturer
Civil Engineering
University of Oulu
University of Oulu

Doctor (Tech.) Anne Tuomela works as a director of Civil engineering degree programme in the University of Oulu. She has expertise in soil mechanics, environmental geotechnics and foundations engineering. Her research is focused on the characterization of side streams from a geotechnical and environmental point of view to achieve in future more sustainable solutions in the built environment.