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Project results: There are options other than demolition – we just need to find them

Ministry of the Environment
Publication date 24.4.2024 16.18 | Published in English on 8.5.2024 at 9.42
News item

Demolition constantly threatens many kinds of buildings, including younger and younger ones, when they are no longer in use and the backlog of repairs is growing. In a project completed by the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Häme, case studies show very clearly that in land use planning consideration is not always given to the possibility of preserving the existing building stock.

In such cases the ecological impacts of demolition and construction remain a blind spot even if, at the same time, the municipalities may have set quite ambitious climate and sustainability targets. In a circular economy, however, we need to take a fresh look at the present building stock as a usable resource.

Focus on resource efficiency to promote a circular economy

The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Häme has completed a project on ways to promote a circular economy in land use planning and construction in municipalities. The ten land use or other planning projects that were studied concerned different kinds of buildings from the 1920s to the 1970s, including schools, blocks of flats, office buildings and a parish centre. The project, funded by the Ministry of the Environment, used real-life cases to reveal the different kinds of values in the built environment.

Land use planning has been identified as a key phase in determining the conditions for a circular economy in the built environment, but often this is perceived narrowly as just recycling. The construction sector is one of the largest consumers of natural resources and producers of waste and climate emissions. Typically, however, the material consumption is not monitored - unlike energy consumption, for example. In construction, renovation and demolition resource efficiency should be considered much more broadly. Priority should be given to the use, repair and utilisation of the existing building stock for new purposes. As the body responsible for land use planning and permit decisions and as a property owner, the municipality has a key role in the transition to a circular economy but, at the same time, it may suffer from a shortage of resources, competence and tools, as well as from heavy economic pressure.

Look into the diverse values of the existing building stock

Finland aims for a transition to a circular economy by 2035. The scientific community considers this transition as an absolute necessity because reducing the consumption of natural resources is essential to avoid climate emissions, waste and biodiversity loss. For processes to be sustainable, the cultural and social perspectives must also be taken into account.

A circular economy aims for continuing the use of materials and resources in such a way that their value is preserved. Both financial capital and expensive materials processed from natural resources have been invested in buildings. Besides the ecological and economic considerations, the project has also highlighted the other dimensions of sustainability. The potential uses and cultural and social values can be highly diverse.

The article produced in the project ‘Options other than demolition’ presents means to consider the different kinds of values in the land use planning processes.


Reetta Nousiainen
Senior Specialist, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Häme
tel. +358 295 025 193
[email protected]

Annukka Lyra
Senior Specialist
Ministry of the Environment
tel. +358 295 250 326
​​​​​​​[email protected]