Adopting sustainable practices: behavioural drivers for the use of recycled concrete

Adopting sustainable practices: behavioural drivers for the use of recycled concrete

by: Valeria Superti (presenting author), Ivo P. Baur, Claudia R. Binder

Laboratory for Human Environment Relations in Urban Systems (HERUS), Swiss Mobiliar Chair in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Living, Institute of Environmental Engineering (IIE), School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

In Switzerland, the construction sector is responsible for 50% of total primary energy demand and about 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste recycling is considered a valid option not only to minimize waste streams to landfills, but also to curb the depletion of primary resources and decrease the impacts associated with their extraction.

The use of aggregates coming from C&D waste in recycled concrete is considered an important strategy to reduce the environmental impact of the building sector. However, although 80% of the C&D waste is recycled nowadays, this mainly results in its use for lower quality applications. In this study, we explore why recycled concrete is rarely used in the construction sector, despite being a feasible alternative. To do so, we need to understand the behavioural drivers of key actors involved in the selection of construction materials.

Our goal is to develop and operationalize a behavioural framework that brings together theory of planned behaviour with elements from innovation adoption theory. We focus on the architect’s decision to recommend recycled concrete. Here, we present and discuss the framework. Key components that we linked are subjective culture, expectations, attitude, habit, previous experience and perceived behavioural control. The empirical operationalization is part of further studies. This step implies the collection of survey data from architects that are members of the Swiss society of engineers and architects (N=6000), analyzed through structural equation modelling. The expected results elucidate the key drivers that foster or hinder the application of recycled concrete. From a practical perspective, the overall results will contribute to propose actions/policies that are key to increase the share of recycled concrete in the housing sector. This will support the adoption of more sustainable construction materials for high-grade applications and the improvement of C&D waste management in Switzerland.