EP 105

Why construction finds a home in the circular economy (EP 105)



This week, Paul is joined by Tim Danson, Technical Director of Sustainability at WSP in the UK. Many of you will know WSP, but if you don’t, WSP is one of the world’s leading engineering professional services firms, with over 60,000 employees across 40+ countries.

In today’s conversation, Tim talks about how in 2022, humans used a year’s worth of the earth’s resources in just seven months and how he believes the circular economy can help us. Tim’s passion for the circular economy and how it can change the way we work as a sector is evident, and we talk about the business case for us all moving towards it.

The article Paul refers to in the podcast is available to read here.


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Paul Heming: Hello and welcome to episode 105 of the Own the Build podcast with me, Paul Heming. How is everyone doing today? I hope you’re well. In the studio today, I am joined by a man who is technical director of sustainability at WSP in the UK, one of the world’s leading engineering professional services firms who probably don’t need any introduction. I’m delighted to have Tim Danson here on the show. Tim follows in the footsteps, the illustrious footsteps of his colleague, Diego Padilla Phillips, who I think some of you will remember from probably what, 20 episodes ago? Something like that. Now, I was introduced to Tim. We’re going to be talking about the circular economy today, particularly in construction, of course. And Tim, I am delighted that you are here today.

Tim Danson: Thank you.

Paul Heming: How are you doing?

Tim Danson: I’m very well. I’m very well sitting here in a bright but slightly cloudy Bristol and very much looking forward to talk around, around the circular economy with you. So yeah, all guns blazing.

Paul Heming: Me too. And you’ve got to be kind to me today. You’ve been a little bit under the weather. You probably are a little bit croaky. Sorry, everyone who’s listening, but Tim has promised me that he is going to be really charming and nice to me all day. So I think we’ll be all right.

Tim Danson: Well, you can speak to my wife if you want to define charming and nice, but I should do my best, Paul.

Paul Heming: I’ll give you a review at the end and see how charming you’ve been and we can go from there. Right. So all jokes aside, talk to me and talk to the listeners about who you are, your experience, and then your role today at WSP.

Tim Danson: Of course. Okay. So I’ve now been working in consultancy for probably 23 years, in pure consultancy. I’ve had lots of different roles, but now I occupy the position of a technical director within WSP’s advisory services. And my job day-to-day is quite varied quite busy as you can imagine, but it majors around sustainable infrastructure and buildings. I am the advisory lead for circular economy, which is why we’re here today. I also provide a leadership role for our Net zero and our climate resilience teams too. I’m also program director for our airport Carbon Accreditation service, which is a global service to decarbonize the aviation industry and many other things. But I’m not going to bore you with them now, but yeah.

Paul Heming: You’re a busy man, Tim. WSP, you know, when I was chatting with Diego all those weeks ago, a few months ago, Diego was working on 22 Bishops Gate. In a distant past in my career, I worked for a company that was working on Bishopsgate as well the same project, worked on lots of exciting projects alongside WSP in my past, which means that I know that working for a company like WSP means that you see a lot of exciting projects, a lot of exciting things happening. And on top of that, you are a technical director at WSP. You must be seeing loads of exciting things. What are you seeing right now in the industry that is getting you excited?

Tim Danson: I mean, there’s too much for a 45 minute Interview, Paul.

Paul Heming: Really?

Tim Danson: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, net zero has taken off with an absolute rocket. And alongside that, we see really clear direction towards moving towards a natural capital thinking, climate resilience, vulnerability and adaptability. How we manage our buildings over their lifetime and their assets. Great places to live and work, you know, homogenizing all of this. But also, you know, we see a lot of work around our assets that we are designing. Future-Ready, are they future-proof? Have we really considered climate technology, society resources in the right way, such that when these schemes come online, they’re ready and flexible and adaptable to do what they need to do? And of course, the rise of the circular economy, which is one of my real passions, is coming to the fore. And it’s something to get really excited about, I think, and get involved with if you’re not yet.

Paul Heming: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, we’ve done on this show one episode where we touched on the circular economy, but that would’ve been maybe episode 30-35. So, I’ve got a baseline understanding of it. It’s not something that impacts my day-to-day or –

Tim Danson: It probably is.

Paul Heming: I don’t think it does. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Tim is looking at me like I’m some kind of idiot there. So I thought we said you were going to be charming and nicely, but okay, so it probably does impact my day today. So we’re all here to learn, aren’t we? But I wanted, I always like to ground the conversation in simple understanding. And actually when we spoke before, your role focuses on the circular economy and I asked you to share like a baseline article if there was anything I could read that would help to found my understanding of the topic. And actually, you shared a fostering partner’s piece of writing. I’ll actually put that in the podcast notes because it’s really useful for anyone who wants to read it. It was really, really helpful. In that document, some of the takeaways were, I guess, this probably tells you the state of where we’re at, right? That I wasn’t even shocked by this, but one of them was in 2022, a year’s worth of biological resources was used in just seven months. Based on these trends, humanity will need 1.75 earths to supply the demand for resources if you’ve learned. And it probably, actually, now that I reflect on it, cause you know, it jumps out to you, you think, oh God, but I’m not surprised by it. And I don’t think it’s something that any of the listeners will listen to and think, sounds like a load of nonsense or sounds like something I can’t picture. Cause that’s where we’re at, isn’t it?

Tim Danson: It’s just that massive, isn’t it? It’s just enormous. And yeah, this is the earth overshoot principle that we are overshooting the amount of resources that we are consuming. That trend is not getting better by any means, unfortunately.

Paul Heming: It’s getting worse.

Tim Danson: It’s getting worse. So if you look back to 1970, when the trend started to be picked up on, we wouldn’t be consuming the amount of resources that the Earth can offer us with within a year, but very rapidly, up to 2023, it really has increased about that 1.75 threshold that you mentioned.

Paul Heming: Is it getting worse year on year or are we now plateauing tripping away at it?

Tim Danson: The last few years have plateaued from memory, but that’s largely down to covid. But, you know, global trends are absolutely saying that the trajectory is going to continue and actually by 2050 we could be looking at a doubling tripling of that rate. So there is plenty to have a shot at and to try and resolve in that context. I mean, a couple years –

Paul Heming: It’s a positive way to look at it.

Tim Danson: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Paul Heming: It’s such a bad situation that actually, we’ve got a big opportunity to make some real tangible changes.

Tim Danson: We work as a company on some really significant infrastructure, which is not everybody’s cup of tea. It is not generally our job to say yes or no, this shouldn’t go ahead. It’s our job to make it as sustainable and as future ready and as positive as possible. And I look at that, that for the resource consumption picture as well. You know, two years ago, three years ago, we breached the hundred billion tons worth of resources consumed each year on the planet. To me, I can’t even fathom what that looks like, but it’s a huge amount. And you know, even if you’re not Greta, we need to have a think about what we need to do with that.

Paul Heming: Hundred percent. Yeah, I mean, when you look at just simple, you get to 31st of July and we’ve got nothing else to take. It just shows. No, it’s just crazy though, isn’t it? But I think those stats, like can say, will resonate with everyone and it won’t sadly bowl everyone over as a huge surprise. Now, we’re talking about the circular economy first and foremost. What is the circular economy and why is it relevant? Why was I reading those stats in that article?

Tim Danson: So, the circular economy has been around for quite a while now, but in terms of its real prominence probably the last five, 10 years, it really has come to the front. So the circular economy is about designing out waste and designing out pollution. It’s about keeping the resources we use in high value applications across their entire life cycle. So moving away from this take mate use dispose model, which we’re all very used to, and actually thinking how can we reduce wastage, leakage from everything that we use? It’s also about protecting our natural capital. So we should be looking to use more natural materials, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable materials. And the El MacArthur Foundation really set this out in really clear terms and has been spearheading this for many years now. And that’s the point of reference that a lot of people go to get a really good basic understanding of what the –

Paul Heming: Ellen MacArthur as in the sailor?

Tim Danson: As in the sailor. Yes. So she set up a foundation many years ago around the circular economy. They have been leading that sort of thinking extensively in the industry and it has grown from that in the UK. So they really are a foundational seminal source of information for that.

Paul Heming: But, so you’re talking about designing out waste and pollution. My perception perhaps incorrectly or maybe this is still part of it, was that the circular economy would be more like, if there is waste, what can we do with that waste to actually make use of it? I.e., you know, stupid example, you build a house, you order a hundred roof tiles, you need 90, what do we do with the 10? They go, they could go into some kind of economy somewhere else and be used, or is that completely wrong then?

Tim Danson: So, it is part of it, Paul, and that is a good way to think about it, but it is probably a little bit down the way of what we should be thinking about. So our first priorities, how do we not create any waste at all? So, we don’t have to deal with it.

Paul Heming: That wasted 10 times?

Tim Danson: Yeah, yeah. So it’s actually thinking about all resources and waste as something that we can use and if we can, and whether it’s a mobile phone or a house or a road, anything that we manufacture or design, how can we stop wastage and leakage from that product throughout its entire lifecycle?

Paul Heming: Again, excuse naivety perhaps on this, but is, you know, designing out waste and the like, how is that cult, what’s the cultural shift? Because I’m sure, you know, I’m a QS, I don’t care about numbers, but designing out or factoring out waste to reduce it as much as possible for the sake of money was always a focus for lots of businesses. How is that, how is the “circular economy” designing out waste? How is that different culturally to what we’ve been doing before?

Tim Danson: So previously where we were thinking, right, we’ve got loads of waste, what are we going to do with it? That is waste management. The circular economy asked us to look at resources, asked us to look them in different ways. How can we create modular structures that don’t create waste? How can we prefabricate stuff that can, we just dropped into place a bit like Lego, really? How can we avoid all those off cuts on site? How can we digitalize things? We’re in an environment now a part in our society, in our culture where we order a huge amount of stuff, you know, online. There isn’t a physical building. We can’t go to the Amazon shop and pick up what we want. That comes to us. How can we digitalize stuff? But it also asks us not to think about ways at all. It asks us to think about as everything as a resource. So there has been a huge, huge cultural shift in the way that we’re thinking about these things.

Paul Heming: And so I feel like I’ve almost, there’s a common misconception then about the social economy. What I was thinking, if when you talk to people about the circular economy and particularly in construction, what are people’s perceptions of it? Is there a common misconception? Is it landing?

Tim Danson: It’s definitely landing. Absolutely. And we’re seeing clients across the UK at all different levels, private and public sector clients really getting ahold of it. Now, most people are starting their journey on the circular economy in terms of its understanding. They are further ahead in terms of net zero and understanding biodiversity, for example. But, you know, circular economy is in a bit of glue for all those things. So, we do see clients like HS two, like network rail, like National Highways, the Crown Estate, really getting into the circular economy, driving it into their value chains and trying to understand how they can influence it better.

Paul Heming: Why are you the circular economy lead? I always like to ask the question about like the individual. Why do you care about, why is it something that you are passionate about?

Tim Danson: I care about it for, for a number of reasons. Firstly it is up to 45% of us achieving our net zero ambitions. The way we manage construction materials, land, agriculture, everybody’s decarbonizing, which is fantastic, putting PVS, decarbonizing, transport electric cars. But actually the way we manage the materials and resources around that is up to 45% of that challenge. I think people maybe miss that nuance.

Paul Heming: What do you mean?

Tim Danson: In the sense of people are focusing on decarbonizing cars and their buildings and having net zero buildings, low carbon infrastructure, but –

Paul Heming: Have some PV.

Tim Danson: I’m being quite specific.

Paul Heming: But actually what is the concrete, the steel and everything that goes into –

Tim Danson: Absolutely.

Paul Heming: Delivering that as –

Tim Danson: How is it manufactured? How is it installed? How is it operated and maintained throughout its lifetime? And most importantly, what are we doing with it at end of life? Ice struck D, they have a really strong case, as does the IC for saying, why are we demolishing anything? You know, if it’s safe we should be repurposing. We shouldn’t be just demolishing it to –

Paul Heming: It’s interesting you mentioned that. Cause as you were talking about that, and this is something that Diego and I chatted about. There was the much deliberative, I’ve asked a few people on this show actually what their perception of it is or what is right, what is wrong. The M&S store on Oxford Street or Region Street, I can’t remember where it was. Looks like a beautiful, it’s actually got a beautiful historic facade. And the plans there were to completely demolish that and start again when they were replacing it. And it’s been talked about a huge amount obviously. So, and that chimes what you’re saying, like, why are we even demolishing things? It’s that mindset almost isn’t the mindset as always been, right. I don’t need that anymore. Bang, remove it, start a fresh, what do we need? But that’s shifting.

Tim Danson: Yeah, absolutely. And there are two things on that actually, Paul. One is that it’s incumbent upon every designer, every planner, every master planner, to think about how they can integrate these principles into what they do. Because by the time it’s up, it’s very hard to change. So actually, if you can design flexibility and adaptability into a building so it can be changed for different purposes over its life, it’s incumbent upon us right at the outset to make those decisions. And the second part, which you mentioned just there, is the heritage aspect of it actually. Heritage is a really important factor in encouraging us to reuse buildings, to celebrate heritage, to keep that cultural value of buildings. And we’re at a point now where the younger generations want to understand the heritage and the value and the way that buildings work and why they are what they are. They don’t want to see just glass and steel. They like a bit of rough and ready, a bit of exposed concrete. You know, they want to understand that that beard is orange because it’s being used.

Paul Heming: I’m still young, aren’t I?

Tim Danson: You really are, you really are. That beard can be nothing else but young. If I could grow such a beard, I would do, Paul.

Paul Heming: Talking of like the younger generation and you are clearly passionate about net zero –

Tim Danson: I thought you’re going to say I’m clearly past that.

Paul Heming: Well, yeah, you took the words right outta my mouth. No, but you talk about that, it’s clearly a topic that matters to you. Do you have children? Are your children talking to you about these things? Like how do they react to, when you talk about, I’m guessing maybe don’t talk about the circular economy with them, but they know what you do. Is that part of the passion for you?

Tim Danson: Absolutely. And you know, I do have kids. I’ve got Grace who’s 12 and Harriet who’s nine, they’re good kids. They understand the world and they are influenced strongly by their parents positively, I hope. And they are anti materialistic. They understand that actually us as a nation sending X million tons of Christmas cards at Christmas maybe isn’t the right thing to do. They do understand about food waste and actually it’s important to finish everything that you take on your plate. And that sort of learning is going to permeate into whatever jobs they do, which we don’t even know what those jobs are in the future. So yeah, culturally it’s hugely important. And we’re also finding, just to finish on that, Paul, is that our new recruits, the people we’re bringing in, our graduates, our engineers, our designers, our scientists, our consultants are really savvy about these sorts of things. Even if that’s not their specialism and they want to integrate it into the work that that they do.

Paul Heming: Do you think it’s almost in its seeped into the mentality of that generation and the generations to come and the way we’ve been doing it is truly absurd.

Tim Danson: Yeah, it really is.

Paul Heming: Got the C card example, it’s completely non-construction related, but it is insanity.

Tim Danson: It is insanity.

Paul Heming: Christmas trees, to be honest with you, is something that really bugs me where I am the last, well last month, there’s just Christmas trees on the corners, waiting to we pick up piles of them and you think, what is going on? I just don’t understand it.

Tim Danson: And you know, the Carbon Trust has done a lot of work around what is the low carbon solution around Christmas trees and what is the more circular way to do it. And that’s a whole other topic outside of construction.

Paul Heming: Yeah. We’re getting way off topic now almost, aren’t we? We do want to bring us back to construction, but actually think we’ve grounded the conversation very nicely in what the circular economy is, why it’s important and where we’re at with it. Now in the second half of the show, I would like to talk to you about construction and its relevance, but we’ll do that right after this break.

Tim, fantastic start to the show. Great understanding of the circular economy. Now I want to learn much more about how it is impacting the designs that you guys are doing, the programs that you guys are crafting, and how it’s really helping the listeners to picture how potentially it could fit in or it’s already fitting in to the projects that they are working on. So can you talk to me about how a circular economy mentality, which WSP are adopting as I understand it, is impacting the designs of construction projects today?

Tim Danson: Absolutely. It’s a massive question, Paul, and you’ll have to stop if I go too far. But we’ll start with a couple of examples and it should mention it’s not just us driving this, it’s our clients driving it and asking of us as well, which is fantastic. That’s all we could ever hope for. So, I think probably the first sort of example I would give is the work that I’m doing with Diego, who you mentioned earlier. And our colleague David Laver looking at the reuse of steel in the industry. We’ve known through covid, the prices and availability for construction materials particularly for steel have gone through the roof. And actually there’s a huge mandate now to think about reusing steel rather than actually just specifying recycled steel or using virgin steel. And the driver for that is that reusing steel per kilogram is around 46 kilograms of CO2 per ton for reusing steel, where it’s 1,800 for virgin steel. So just on the carbon alone, just on the carbon alone, let alone all the transport, etcetera. But from the circle economy perspective, let’s take a product, which is perfectly good, let’s polish it up, refabricate it, and let’s reuse it. So the work that David and Diego in WSP structures has been doing, they’ve been working with one of the major European recycling organizations to identify what stockpiles they have and what condition it is in and what the shapes and the form and the strength, etcetera is. And they’ve been taking that stockpile and bringing that to the designs that they are developing. So, not developing a designer thinking or what could we use in this, actually looking at what is available. Are you keeping a resource in really high value application and bringing that into their designs. And that’s been really pioneering I think. And they’ve actually applied that on a couple of their projects now to great effect.

Paul Heming: So, that is fascinating. So are you saying then that as opposed to convergence or completely designing it for manufacturer, you are looking at old recycled stock and say, okay, what can we do with these beams or whatever to make this project work? Is that right?

Tim Danson: Absolutely. And people will listen to that and they think, oh, that’s going to cost a huge amount.

Paul Heming: You’re speaking to QS here. I’ve already said I’ve got my calculator, I’m already thinking about it.

Tim Danson: But when you think about how much energy and transport and cost it takes to recycle a piece of steel through an electric art furnace, compare that to just refabricating it and testing it, which is actually a fairly quick and simple process. The cost is actually relatively neutral depending on where you source these things. So, the cost adds up, the carbon adds up, and the circular economy adds up, but at the moment, the culture doesn’t add up. And the understanding of that sort of commercial and logistical process is not well known. But there are many organizations out there driving this sort of thinking to help the industry understand that better.

Paul Heming: Yeah, it’s really fascinating. I mean when you were saying recycled steel, I was think, okay, yeah, how, how are they going to, is it really going to make sense to go and this is a, but it’s the old mental, is it going to make sense to go back refabricate something into something else. But if you’re saying, I find that really remarkable that you’re actually saying we just use what is available as opposed to we repurpose it. But even with that then I’m imagining clever people like Diego and the like actually going about, doing their structural calculations, the design of the building might have to be different because you’ve got different, it’s not as simple, but is it more that now we should be championing the mentality of, cause it’s almost how you should be thinking about it. Like, what have we got to do this as opposed to how can I create something completely new to do this perfectly, which has been the mentality before?

Tim Danson: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, the British standards allow this to happen as long as it’s not fire damaged or it hasn’t come from an area where there’s sort of been seismic activity, you know, there is a process to do this that’s embedded in our British standards. So, it’s perfectly acceptable to do it. There really is no argument not to do it. But that’s just one example, you know, from one particular client. You know, we work with a local authority to do some really interesting work around integrating plastics into asphalt, for example. We’re working with HS two, love them all. You know, it’s not for me to say we’re there to make it as sustainable a scheme as possible. And they are actually –

Paul Heming: I’m living in London, so get me back home as quick as possible is what I’m saying.

Tim Danson: Really sensitive areas. So we’re not going to –

Paul Heming: Yeah, no comments.

Tim Danson: But you know, they’re in a great example of a client that actually wants to do really good stuff around the circular economy and they embed it in their contracts. They say this building needs to be made out to reuse steel or timber structurally, and you have to go and find a way to do that. So, that’s the sort of us pushing stuff, but also clients asking for it as well.

Paul Heming: That relationship between client and WSP or client and consultant, whoever that consultant is, who’s driving it? Because naturally, the client is driving it because you are getting paid by the client. I try and get my head around this because if WSP are saying, or consultants are saying we want to target net zero, we want to do this, that, and the other, all of these amazing things. And then you go and say, right, we want to repurpose this steel and this is going to have that impact on the design of the project. And you know, the stakeholder isn’t quite getting what they wanted to. How does that play out? Because in 1917, 1980, 1990, you know, even like 10 years ago you just said, this is what we want, go away and do it. How is that any different today? Is it really different?

Tim Danson: It is different today. Our role as consultants has changed. We are no longer the commodity providers that you are talking about. We want to be trusted advisors, we want to be partners with these clients. So, it’s our job to consult and we make recommendations about the art of the possible. So if you can use reuse steel, and its cost neutral, it is structurally sound, its low carbon, its part of this circular economy, that’s a very easy case to put to an intelligent client who says, actually that’s going to be great for me. That’s going to add value to the building, it’s going to increase its marketability. The challenge I think comes in the logistics and the commerciality of doing it and that continues to present a challenge. But in the example of steel here is one that we can absolutely overcome with the right infrastructure, with the right policy, with the right guidance, and with the right culture, which is what you’ve majored on today.

Paul Heming: I guess you’ve really centered on the point that I’m making or that, or the question that I’m asking is, me, you and Diego, I’m the client, you guys are advising me, and you say this would be a pretty good solution, you know, tick a lot of boxes, circular economy-wise, you know, reuse this steel from blah, blah, blah. But it does mean that we have this impact. Doesn’t quite tick all the boxes that you might have wanted with design. Is the client really, I know it’s an impossible thing to say, but like, is the mentality of the client actually like, okay, let’s do it. I think that’s a better solution. I want to champion that. Or is it –

Tim Danson: That will depend on the client.

Paul Heming: No.

Tim Danson: It will always depend on the client and you’ll speak to clients at this end of the scale and its clients at this end of the scale. Our job is to get clients at this end of the scale to this end of the scale through that sort of narrative, that quantitative –

Paul Heming: Is that what you genuinely believe as a business, that it is your job to get them from zero to a hundred in terms of the circuit.

Tim Danson: Absolutely, because there’s no one that loses out of it. Now, there is a question around risk. Who takes the risk if you use a piece of reuse steel? Is it the fabricator, is it the tester? Is it the, specify the client, the consultant? But that can all be bottomed out through really clear quality protocols for that asset. So, it’s a win-win win. And it’s absolutely our responsibility to change a culture of our kids and our clients and everybody else around that the users of those buildings are those assets to understand the roots that has been taken to get to this really good position and really importantly, what the benefits are of that.

Paul Heming: Incredible. No, I mean really is remarkable to hear, you know, and again, it’s moving away from that old like mentality, not WSP or cause honest, but my mentality I’m talking about of I’m the consultant, I’m subservient to you, what do you want? And actually what you guys are saying is, no, we are the experts. We are the specialists in this field. You need to listen to us and we need to help you move from A to B. And that is because that’s where the industry’s got us, where the world’s going, right? And we have to do it. Really, really amazing to hear you, to hear you even say that with regards to creating a business case for, because I’m guessing this would all get wrapped up in like the business case for still we’re just sticking with a steel, like I’m not a technical person, I know what steel is, so I’m running with it. Stick with me. I’m just a QS. But when you’re doing that, how do you present a business case? Are you making business cases for the circular economy?

Tim Danson: Absolutely, of course we are. And all changes to specifications or adaptations or new ideas need those business cases, need those sifting processes to make sure that you’ve ticked all the boxes and that you are not applying undue risk to your clients. And that could be from a safety perspective. It could be from a quality carbon, water, install ability, maintainability, deconstruct ability perspective. So all of these things need to be considered, and we will make those cases to the client. We will say, actually, we can reuse this piece of steel and we can bolt it on rather than welding it. So actually when you take ownership of this building for its lifetime, you can repurpose it at end of life. That’s the capital that sits in your particular assets, keep it and don’t pay again for it in the future. Rather than this sort of short term capital expenditure thinking, we want to be getting clients and our colleagues to think more whole life costing as well. And there is a challenge in that because the organization you designed something for may not be the one that takes ownership of it, but that’s why we need to bring all these people together in the conversation right at the start to make that actually viable.

Paul Heming: And you talked earlier about, you know, inflation material shortages, covid, now covid fast forwarded in my eyes many things, definitely like work life flexibility, work life culture like flexible working, etcetera, really press fast forward on that. Have the impacts, the acute impacts of supply chain shortages and what has happened to material prices. Has that accelerated the conversation around the circular economy, has that made it easier? You know, I know we’ve got 50% increase over here, we could do this.

Tim Danson: I think it has been definitely a factor in those conversations. Part of the circular economy is what includes in the name, you know, the economy. It’s about supporting economies. So actually sourcing materials closer to home, manufacturing them closer to home. Where our international supply chains break down because of covid, we are then immediately reliant on what’s within our own shores. And if we don’t have those processes, those resources there, and we’re not manufacturing them ourselves, that increases risk and it increases the cost of those individual assets. It’s hard to get them. So the price goes up, premium goes up. So there’s a really strong story around value chain and keeping resources close. And if you can imagine, we design a building in the UK or a road or a bridge and we manufacture that resource in the UK and we keep that resource in the UK. We repurpose that, we reuse the materials, we don’t have to look further afield.

Paul Heming: Our economy’s asset.

Tim Danson: Exactly. It creates local jobs. I mean, the European Parliament has said that the circular economy could create 600,000 jobs in the next decade if we really invest in it. The returns on investment globally, you know, four and a half trillion worth of investment could be brought in through it. It’s just massive, Paul, and I’m waffling here, but you can see –

Paul Heming: Yeah, no, sure. No, it’s interesting. It’s amazing, the passion as well.

Tim Danson: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And we need to get everybody passionate about it for reasons that are important to them.

Paul Heming: But if you were to speak to people who work in construction now, you are speaking to them right now on this podcast, what would your one bit of advice be to them about circular economy?

Tim Danson: Just one.

Paul Heming: Well, I mean, you can give us more if you like, but what do you think people should do right now to change their mentality?

Tim Danson: I think the first thing that springs to mind is don’t fix what isn’t broken. I can imagine what I know, there are a huge amount of activities, investment, thinking in this sphere in the construction industry, you know, carbon negative concrete, we’ve talked about reuse of steel, replaceable facades, you know, all of this stuff, rainwater capture. It’s all part of the construction industry. So rather than necessarily fix that, articulate it in a different way, think about the concepts of the circular economy, whether it’s modularization, prefabrication or any of these things, and apply those principles to what you are already doing and articulate the benefits of them in a circular way, whether that’s waste diverted from landfill right at the lower end, or it’s the number of contracts with the circular economy in them.

Paul Heming: And are you optimistic about our future? I mean, if I go back to the base of the conversation where I said we’ve used all of the earth’s resources by the 31st of July, according to that report that you shared.

Tim Danson: Do we have any other choice than to be optimistic, Paul? I don’t think we do.

Paul Heming: I’m a bit of a pessimist about life. I’m a glass half empty kind of a bloke, so you are not, which is probably this balanced out this conversation.

Tim Danson: I’m a realistic optimist there. Therefore, we have no choice. We are consuming stuff way too quickly. We are not consuming using it in the right way. We have an obligation and our kids know we have an obligation. They’re on our tails. So, we have an obligation to make a change in this respect as does government, as do client, as do consultants, as do that the general public.

Paul Heming: Well, on that note –

Tim Danson: On that bombshell.

Paul Heming: Great way to end it. Great to have you on the show. I’ll just share that Fosters and partners two, I think it really helped me just to better understand the circular economy and also this conversation has very much done that. And the way that you articulate the problem and what we’re now starting to do about it. And really interesting to actually start hearing tangible things that are changing, i.e., the steel and, and so on. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation, I’m sure the listeners have as well. Thanks for coming on the show, Tim.

Tim Danson: Well, it’s been a pleasure and you know, we’ve scratched the surface really and there’ll be huge number of questions and huge number of thoughts going around this. So if you think there’s merit for another podcast, then yeah, let’s do that.

Paul Heming: You want to come back. Do you?

Tim Danson: I didn’t say me.

Paul Heming: No, you’d be very, very welcome and like I said, I’ll share that article. I’m going to share Tim’s details, WSP’s details on the show notes as well. And there’s lots of interesting stuff that you post about the topic as well. So give Tim a follow. And thanks for coming on the show, Tim. And for all the listeners, thank you for tuning in, again. I will be back next week and hopefully, I won’t be as croaky. I’ll speak to you then.

Tim Danson: I hope so.

Paul Heming: Take care.

Tim Danson: Bye.

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