Göswein, Verena; Zea Escamilla, Edwin; Habert, Guillaume

The concept of Circular Economy (CE) aims to reduce, recover and recycle resources across sectors. The European Commission has manifested this in its New CE Action Plan. The building sector as one of the largest consumers of raw materials has recognized the potential of the CE concept for the renovation, construction and demolition of buildings. Yet, the efforts so far, have been mainly limited to recycling of construction materials while reusing, with minimal additional reprocessing, has been limited to products that are anyway moveable, e.g. technical equipment. However, the biggest share of materials is located in the building core and shell. The reuse of structural and insulating elements has been confronted with two challenges: technical possibility and regulatory requirements. Wood as a natural material has a high circularity potential thanks to its potential cascading and buildings made out of timber are currently promoted. One strong argument for timber construction is that it captures and stores CO2 from the atmosphere, therefore, turning durable timber products, including buildings, into carbon storages. However, under current practices and regulations, timber is used as an energy source at the end of its service life. This paper analyzes the challenges for the implementation of CE strategies for timber structures within the EU regulatory and technical contexts. The technical feasibility is analyzed through the potential design for disassembly. The regulatory requirements are analyzed through a literature review of current European legislation and building codes to uncover challenges that face the reuse of structural elements. This paper aims to raise awareness of the challenges that are faced when implementing CE strategies for the built environment.