In recent years, the international community has been promoting the zero waste circular economy concepts, and striving to establish a circular societal system which is based on the achievements of optimal production, optimal consumption, and minimal waste approach. In line with this approach, the Architecture and Building Research Institute (ABRI) of the Ministry of the Interior has also been promoting the green building concept over the years, and launched the Green Building Materials Labeling Program in 2004 to drive the development of the green building materials industry. The ecolabeling of green building materials is often considered an essential part of any national energy conservation and carbon emissions reducing program which is especially true in Taiwan, as Taiwan depends on imports to meet most of its demands for energy and resources. Therefore, how to optimize the uses of limited available resources and fulfill the commitments of “leading Taiwan towards the era of circular economy and convert waste into renewable resources,” as proclaimed in President Tsai Ing-wen’s 2016 inaugural address, have become extremely important tasks in Taiwan’s government policies and objectives towards achieving the circular economy.
In order to strengthen the circular economy benefits achieved through promoting green building materials, relevant assessments and studies should be conducted on circular economy indicators, as reflected in the characteristics of green building materials. Waste reduction and resource recycling should also be used as the main evaluation criteria. In order to study the relationship between supply and demand of relevant industries’ supply chain, green building materials closely associated with circular economy should also be used as examples and studied while establishing linkage of circular economy industries based on green building materials.
Ⅱ.Research Methodology and Processes
This project first collected domestic and international information on laws and regulations, standards and criteria, and management approaches of relevance to the circular economy; then used such information to analyze how to introduce the circular economy framework into green building materials industries, and proposed recommendations on the promotion directions of green building materials. This project also selected industry partners and provided assistance to help them in establishing demonstration models in circular economy based on the life cycle concept of green building materials.
Moreover, for green building materials conforming to the concepts of circular economy, drafts of relevant assessment mechanism and evaluation criteria have been developed with reference to other ecolabeling programs (such as the program for Taiwan EPA’s Type II environmental protection products) to expand the channels for innovative recycled building materials to participate in Green Building Materials Labeling Program. Information sessions and discussion seminars attended by multiple stakeholders were also organized by this project to discuss issues related to promotion and application strategies for resource recycling and reuse of building materials. Finally, draft standards and criteria for evaluation of green building materials were developed in line with the current development and future trends of circular economy.
In order to make good use of ABRI’s testing capacity, an inventory of the facilities and capacity of ABRI Test Center’s Green Building Materials Laboratory was established. Industry partners were selected to take part in the cooperation project with the Green Building Materials Laboratory, and the results of their cooperation were reviewed in a formal review meeting organized by this project. Based on results of the cooperation project, recommendations on how to improve the equipment and capacity of the Green Building Materials Laboratory, and strategies on conducting future cooperation projects among partners from the industries, academia and research organizations, as well as assessments of economic benefits achieved through circular economy were presented in the final project report.
During this research, it was found that difficulties encountered by the domestic green building materials industry in introducing the circular economy framework included: lack of consumers' willingness to use recycled products, government procurement only offers limited incentives for purchasing recycled products, lack of business models for innovative products with circular economy concepts, and lack of funding for research and development of high added value products. In view of the above difficulties, it is recommended that a labeling and certification system be adopted to ensure product quality and enhance consumers' willingness to use such products. In addition, the procurement practices employed through Japan’s green product procurement promotion law may be adopted which covered engineering type resource products. Other practical promotion approaches may include providing subsidies and incentives to manufacturers using recycled products to encourage production and consumption of such products, and offer assistance and grants in R&D funding to encourage the industry in conducting R&D activities related to business models for innovative products and high added value technologies.
On the other hand, this study conducted the assessment of economic performance of circular economy industries using examples of two green building materials, namely concrete aggregates (glass sand materials) and high-pressure concrete floor tiles. The study results found the economic and environmental benefits for using such recycled building materials to include: reduce consumption of raw materials by 61,991 tonnes, reduce production of waste materials by 57,679 tonnes, reduce emissions of CO2 by 40,425 tonnes, save $30.20 million New Taiwan Dollars (NTD) in raw material costs, and reduce $130 million NTD in waste disposal fees. The established linkage of green building materials’ circular economy industrial system can help resolve the difficulties relevant industries encountered in introducing the circular economy framework, and highlight the significant benefits of adopting green building materials in the circular economy.
Based on the research results, this study proposed the following short-term (immediate actions), medium-term and long-term recommendations, which can be used to promote the circular economy framework of green building materials.
Recommendation 1 (short-term (immediate) actions)
Continue to promote the establishment of linkage for green building materials industry’s circular economy
Leading organization: ABRI of Ministry of the Interior
Participating organizations: manufacturers of various green building materials
Promote the linkage of green building materials industries to study the gaps encountered by the resource recycling industry; and analyze the flows of materials and financial resources to assess the relevant benefits resulting from replacing virgin materials with recycled materials, so as to highlight the overall benefits achieved through establishing the circular economy industrial system for the green building materials.
Recommendation 2 (short-term (immediate) actions)
Adopt the approach used for Taiwan EPA’s Type II green products in development of qualified product evaluation mechanism/criteria
Leading organization: ABRI of the Ministry of Interior
Participating organization: Taiwan Architecture and Building Center
After analyzing North America’s Environmental Choice Program and Taiwan EPA’s Type II Green Products Program, it is recommended that Green Building Materials Labeling Program follows the approaches of Type II Program in developing product evaluation mechanism to enhance participation of innovative recycled building products. For recycled building products with characteristics including disassemble design, recyclable, reusable, recycled content, extended product life, reduced resource use, waste reduction, and contain specific ratio of domestic recycled materials, even though such products may not be allowed under the existing product criteria, they may still be awarded the Green Building Materials Label under the revised qualified product evaluation scheme.
Recommendation 3 (medium and long-term actions)
Establish basic information for green building materials labeled products
Leading organization: ABRI
Participating organizations: Construction and Planning Agency of the Ministry of the Interior, participating construction companies and green building materials manufacturers
At present, recycled industrial waste is being used in most Green Building Materials Label products, as the quality and compositions of these materials are relatively stable and easier for control of the recycling process. However, in the future, with the promotion of greater re-use or recycling of green building materials, the product users or consumers will need to better understand the materials or characteristics of such building materials. Therefore, it is necessary to develop basic information of these products using schemes such as building material passports, or provide additional information on product re-uses.
Recommendation 4 (medium and long-term actions)
The government should stipulate the mandatory use of recycled products, and provide incentives and subsidies for conducting relevant research and development activities
Leading organization: Ministry of the Interior
Participating organizations: Construction and Planning Department of the Ministry of the Interior, ABRI, Construction Research Institute of the Ministry of the Interior, and Public Construction Commission of the Executive Yuan
Domestic public construction projects which can use up a huge amount of green building materials are important means for consumption of recycled products, and greater adoption of resource-recycled products in public works is a greater way to promote the circular economy of domestic green building materials. Therefore, the implementation guidelines for public construction projects should stipulate the mandatory use of recycled products, and provide incentives and subsidies for conducting relevant research and development activities for innovative products’ business models and high added value technologies.