Counting circularity in construction EPDs

Environmental benchmarking and measuring environmental performance have become increasingly common in the building and construction industries, yet circularity is often an overlooked part of the sustainability equation. InfraBuild (formerly Liberty OneSteel) has ensured circularity counts by building the Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) into their EPD update with thinkstep-anz. 

“The MCI enables us to measure and improve on the circularity of our steel products. We started with building the MCI into our reinforcing bar product and have now expanded to incorporate the circularity indicator into our entire EPD collection with thinkstep-anz’s help”, says David Bell, Construction Market Manager at InfraBuild.

Quantifying the Circular Economy

The concept of a Circular Economy focuses on extending the lifespan of raw materials and products, while minimising waste. While the Circular Economy offers a more sustainable alternative to the commonly used linear model, it can be challenging for manufacturers such as InfraBuild to translate this high-level concept into tangible action without tools in place to measure circularity.

This is where the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s MCI comes in with a focus on keeping products, components and materials functioning at their highest possible quality for as a long as possible. A Circular Economy requires a combination of repair and maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, and recycling (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2015). The MCI follows a straightforward scale system of 0—1 to measure how well a product aligns with these circular values with 0 indicating a linear process, and 1 indicating a fully circular one. “The MCI tool is invaluable for measuring circularity,” says Barbara Nebel, CEO of thinkstep-anz. “When an MCI and EPD are combined, it ensures that a full environmental picture is communicated. InfraBuild have shown real leadership by becoming the first company in Australasia to build the MCI into their EPDs,” explains Barbara.

Building circularity into EPDs

The recent ability to incorporate the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s MCI tool into EPDs ensures that the circularity of products can be quantified—an essential step in the transition from a linear to a circular model.

EPDs measure environmental performance across a wide range of indicators including carbon footprint and have proven to be a popular sustainability tool in the built environment. The MCI is also highly relevant for building and infrastructure sectors as it encourages more circular design principles from the extraction of raw resources, to the construction and eventual demolition stages.

InfraBuild commits to circularity

As Australia's largest integrated manufacturer and supplier of steel long products, InfraBuild demonstrates leadership with a renewed commitment to environmental reporting with the publication of their six updated EPDs. In addition to the environmental indicators already included in the original documents, the updated EPDs also measure how well a product aligns with Circular Economy values through the MCI tool.

For InfraBuild, the incorporation of the MCI tool supports the measurement of circularity not only as a useful baseline, but also acts to fill in gaps in industry knowledge and infrastructure projects that involve the products.

Maximising value

The updated EPDs not only demonstrates InfraBuild’s ongoing commitment to environmental reporting but also allows them to speed up the transition away from a take-make-waste model. In the case of the MCI tool, it establishes that circular solutions do not come at the cost of increased burdens elsewhere. Therefore, InfraBuild’s EPD update demonstrates how the MCI tool can increases its own value and the value of an EPD when combined.


Download the updated EPDs and find out more about their inherent value from EPD Australasia's interview with InfraBuild's Construction Market Manager, David Bell below.