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Insights Civil engineering and the circular economy

Following COP26 in 2021, Net Zero Carbon has become an increasing focus, particularly in the construction industry, as we endeavour to reduce the impact of climate change. Commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change to limit global warming to below 2 degrees, (but preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius) set out plans to achieve this.

Construction is responsible for 38% of CO2 emissions, so at AtkinsRéalis , we know that we have a great deal of responsibility to make changes. We have a vision for engineering a sustainable society and as signatories to the UN Global Compact, we are committed to setting high-level but achievable targets. The circular economy offers civil engineering a viable solution to reducing carbon emissions as it encourages the elimination of waste and continued safe use of natural resources.

image of a recycling lifecycle showing that it is a circular motion

What is the circular economy?

The circular economy addresses global challenges and according to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation is based on three principles: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature. Ultimately, products should be used, repaired, transformed, and reused indefinitely, rather than continuously making new ones.

In a report detailing next steps for the UK, the Climate Change Committee states ‘Unless much greater emissions reductions can be achieved by 2030, the world is very unlikely to be able to meet the 1.5C goal, even if all the Net Zero ambitions are delivered in full, and replicated by countries yet to set a Net Zero goal.’ It is arguable that the circular economy offers a viable solution to creating these emission reductions, but it needs to be adopted immediately.

Civil engineering and the circular economy

The Institution of Civil Engineers put forward that in the construction industry, a circular economy provides an environment for low carbon design and creates massive opportunities for infrastructure engineers. In a zero-waste system, products used in the construction process can be adapted and reused so that they are continuously useful. An example of this in practice is when London Underground tube trains were repurposed for the railroad in the Isle of Wight. The body shells of the trains were 40 years old at the time but were refitted with new parts and given a new lease of life.

Carbon itself is a product created by methods used in the construction industry but can actually be reprocessed and used in carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS). Net Zero targets have increased momentum for CCUS, with over 100 new facilities expected to have been built in 2021.

The journey to Net Zero at AtkinsRéalis

At AtkinsRéalis , we are known around the world for our engineering expertise and what separates us from the competition is the way we work and think. We’re future planning, staying ahead of the curve, with a vision to connect people, technology, and data to enable a more sustainable world. We’re equipped with the skills to create solutions for some of the most pressing issues, including population growth and climate change.

We apply digital solutions and BIM technology to maximise reuse and recycling of materials, and we have developed a Net Zero Carbon Routemap which outlines how we will achieve our ambitions in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As part of this, we continue innovating and creating a more sustainable, efficient and integrated approach.

Our civil engineers are building a greener future by using resources effectively, using renewable or recycled resources, planning for resiliency in a changing climate and setting out a journey to engineering Net-Zero.

Why choose AtkinsRéalis for your civil engineering career?

It’s a challenging but exciting time to be working as a civil engineer. There is a multitude of opportunities to design and build a greener, safer, and more resilient world for future generations, and there’s never been a better time to get involved.

A career at AtkinsRéalis will give you purpose; we use the latest technical and digital solutions to provide the best solutions for not only our clients but for society too. By learning from our experts and working on some of the most exciting projects in the world, you’ll never stop developing your career in civil engineering. Browse our available civil engineering jobs today or sign up for job alerts so you’re always in the know.