Measuring project circularity in construction

17th April 2024

Authors: (Left to right) Dr Mohamed Abadi and Dr David R Moore

dr-m-abadi-image  dr-d-r-moore-image

Dr Mohamed Abadi, University of Manchester, and Dr David R Moore, Robert Gordon University, bring together their expertise in different areas to address circularity in construction.

We have arrived at the research focus captured in our paper, A framework of indicators to measure project circularity in construction circular economy from two different directions, with each providing insights, over many years, regarding the challenge of achieving a sustainable construction industry. Those insights can be summarised: environmental impacts of the construction industry are visible at all levels and throughout the building lifecycle, and the transition to sustainable construction has been partial (at best), despite claims of environmental achievements. 

Our paper responds to the limitation of existing sustainable building standards and certification systems of focusing on capturing sustainability contributions in building projects at the energy consumption and GHG emissions level, but not necessarily at building materials use level. Such a partial approach to sustainability assessment creates conflicts, between pathways to sustainability, falsifies claims of environmental achievements, and does not support circular decision-making in building projects. As a result, decision-making practices at the building frontend are still dominated by financial and technical, rather than sustainability factors.

Same problem – different perspectives

Dr Abadi’s research (commencing during his earlier work in the Middle East), knowledge and track record of publications about different pathways to construction sustainability, such as circularity of building materials, led to his key belief: CE research and practices have potentials for addressing problems such as  scarcity of building materials (required, for example, for the reconstruction in conflict areas in the Middle East) and reducing the environmental impacts of construction activities globally. Dr Moore’s previous work on the use of solar technologies, in developing countries, to process waste products into sustainable construction materials (Moore, Ahmed, 1997; Moore, McLean, 2008) is an example of how our different directions have investigated the same problem (scarcity of materials) and also resulted in the holistic approach taken in our circularity research. We are of the opinion that a holistic approach is vital when undertaking circularity research.

A holistic approach

As the Academic Director for the Management of Projects MSc programmes at the University of Manchester (UoM), Dr Abadi’s interaction with industry practitioners provided the drive to develop a pioneering MCDM model that used our earlier work on a conceptual lifecycle circularity assessment framework (PLACIT) (Abadi, Moore and Sammuneh, 2021). The MCDM model is used to support the selection of circular design proposals in building projects (Abadi and Moore, 2022) and has revealed patterns of circularity-impeding behaviours due to the fragmentation of project roles and blurred understanding of practitioners about metrics used for other pathways to sustainability. 

Aspects of the impeding behaviours were identified through Dr Moore’s previous work on project management competencies and behaviours within groups and teams (Moore, Dainty, 2001; Moore, Fisher, 2017), which further supports our opinion of the value of a holistic approach. Our finding of circularity-impeding behaviours contributes to our opinion that industry claims of environmental achievements are more partial than they may initially appear.  

Overcoming partiality

The holistic approach to lifecycle circularity assessment adopted in our research has helped identify directions for further research and led to multiple research submissions and collaborations. For example, the research about governance in construction CE helped to identify barriers to the transition to circular construction supply chains (CCSCs), and a model was developed using system dynamics techniques to inform the selection and design of circular policy tools (Abadi et al., 2023; Huang, Abadi and Yeow, 2023; Huang, Abadi, & Yeow, 2022). Another study explored the impacts of sustainability- and CE-related activities on health and safety in building projects revealing 30 health & safety events and eight types of associated hazards (Huang et al., 2022). Potentials and barriers of Industry 4.0 technologies to facilitate digital transitions and improved flow of information in construction circular economy were explored (Abiodun et. al., 2023), while another research examined potentials of the material passports (MPs) concept and associated technologies for facilitating circularity of building materials throughout the building lifecycle (Cheung et. al, 2023).

Ongoing research also includes developing a maturity model for adopting Industry 4.0 technologies in a construction circular economy and developing an integrated framework for design practices associated with the ‘design out waste’ concept.  While there has been progress in many aspects of the industry’s operation, we remain of the opinion that partiality remains a challenge to be addressed. For example, existing sustainable building certification systems, e.g. BREEAM and LEED, can be argued to be deficient regarding circularity indicators and are therefore partial tools within the wider landscape of sustainability assessment. Systematically promoting circularity practices in the industry would address that problem of partiality.

Our finding of circularity-impeding behaviours contributes to our opinion that industry claims of environmental achievements are more partial than they may initially appear.    



Abadi, M., Huang, J., Yeow, J., et al. (2023). “Towards a complex push-to-pull dynamics in circular construction supply chains: a systematic literature review”. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management.

Abiodun, O., Abadi, M., Ejohwomu, O. and Manu, P. (2023). “Exploring Potentials and Barriers of Industry 4.0 Technologies to Facilitate the Transition to Circular Economy in Construction: A Systematic Literature Review”. In International SEEDS Conference 2023 (p. 326).

Cheung, C., Mohandes, S.R., Manu, P. and Abadi, M. (2023). “Circular Economy in Construction: A Systematic Literature Review of the Application of Material Passports”. In International SEEDS Conference 2023.

Huang, J., Abadi, M. and Yeow, J. (2023). “Policies for the Transition to Circular Construction: A Systematic Literature Review.” In Proceedings of 39th Annual ARCOM Conference. Leeds, UK, 4 September 2023. ARCOM. pp. 741–750.

Abadi, M. and Moore, D. (2022). “Selection of Circular Proposals in Building Projects: An MCDM Model for Lifecycle Circularity Assessments Using AHP.” Buildings, 12 (8): 1110. 

Huang, J., Abadi, M., Manu, P., & Cheung, C. (2022). “The impact of sustainability rating systems on health and safety in building projects.” Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Management, Procurement and Law, 1–16. 

Huang, J., Abadi, M. and Yeow, J. (2022). “Exploring Dynamics in Construction Circular Supply Chains Using a Systematic Literature Review: New Supply-push and Demand-pull perspectives.” In Proceedings of 38th Annual ARCOM Conference. Glasgow, UK, 5 September 2022. ARCOM. pp. 652–661.

Abadi, M., Moore, D.R. and Sammuneh, M.A. (2021). “A framework of indicators to measure project circularity in construction circular economy”. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Management, Procurement and Law, 175 (2): 54–66. 

Moore, D.R. and McLean, S.N, (2008). “Appraisal of the Requirements for Establishing Domestic Roof Rainwater Harvesting Schemes in Bangladesh”. Journal of Building Appraisal, Palgrave Macmillan, Vol. 4, 23-31, March 2008. 

Moore, D. R., Ahmed, N. (1997). “Proposals for the development of an indigenous materials and methods orientated design data aid for design professionals practicing in developing nations”. Habitat International, Sheffield, 21, (1) pp 29-49.

Moore, D.R., Dainty, A.R.J. (2001). “Intra-team Boundaries as Inhibitors of Performance Improvements in UK Design and Build Projects: A Framework for Change”. Construction Management and Economics. 19, 6, pp 559-562. ISSN 0144-6193.

Moore. D. R., Fisher, T. (2017). "Challenges of Motivating Postgraduate Built Environment Online Teaching and Learning Practice Workgroups to Adopt Innovation". International Journal of Construction Education and Research. Vol. 13, No. 3: Innovations in Built Environment Education (IBEE), August 2017. Taylor and Francis. Pp225-247.

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