The Future Of

Waste-free Construction

Episode Summary

The construction industry is a leading contributor to landfill. Is a circular economy the solution to reducing this waste?

Episode Notes

The construction industry is a leading contributor to landfill. Is a circular economy the solution to reducing this waste?

In this episode, Jessica chats with Dr Roberto Minunno from the Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute about how moving towards a circular economy could improve the construction industry’s environmental footprint. 

  • The problem with recycling [01:59]
  • Barriers to adopting a circular economy [07:43]
  • How modular buildings can help reduce construction wastage [10:04]
  • The Legacy Living Lab – an example of an circular economy building [13:45]
  • Turning buildings into material banks [29:49]
  • How can we apply circular economy principles to our lives [32:55]

Learn more

Connect with our guests

Dr Roberto Minunno

Sessional Academic at Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences 

Dr Roberto Minunno is an expert in circular economy and sustainable, modular building design.​ He completed his PhD at Curtin University, where he joined the team at Curtin University Sustainable Policy (CUSP) Institute as the ideator of the Legacy Living Lab: a moveable, disassemblable, modular building, enabling a deeper understanding and application of the circular economy concerning building materials, components and operations. 

Curtin staff page

LinkedIn profile

Questions or suggestions for future topics





Curtin University supports academic freedom of speech. The views expressed in The Future Of podcast may not reflect those of Curtin University.

Music: OKAY by 13ounce Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0 Music promoted by Audio Library.

Episode Transcription

Jessica Morrison (00:00):

This is The Future Of, where experts share their vision of the future and how their work is helping shape it for the better.

Jessica Morrison (00:09):

I'm Jessica Morrison. The building industry is one of the world's largest contributors to carbon emissions in landfill. In Australia alone, the industry generates around 20 million tonnes of waste every year. In this episode, I chatted with Dr Roberto Minunno from the Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute about the impact of this waste and how moving towards a circular economy could improve the environmental footprint of this important industry. If you'd like to find out more about this research, you can visit the links provided in the show notes.

Jessica Morrison (00:42):

What is the circular economy model and how is it different from our current approach to building?

Dr Roberto Minunno (00:47):

Yeah, so beyond the aspects of buildings, the circular economy is the concept that says, we should turn waste into new resources. So there are many ways to do that. And in fact, there are many barriers that they actually stop us from doing that. But instead, the actual trend we follow is more called the linear economy or the take waste... take, use, waste, or take, use, dispose, there are many steps in between, but of course... In a way it's just linear, because it takes resources where they are, we manufacture them, we use them, and then at the end, we just dispose of them. And that's why it's linear, because it doesn't give back anything.

Dr Roberto Minunno (01:26):

Instead, the circular economy concept says, no, we should stop that trend because clearly it's not sustainable. We can't keep producing so much waste. We can't keep producing so much CO2 emissions and beyond. And we can't just take materials because they are finite. They will finish. So we need to keep what we have in circulation, as long as possible. And for many times possible.

Jessica Morrison (01:48):

There are many building materials such as brick, steel, timber, that can be recycled. However, the building industry has mixed opinions on the value of recycling. What's your view on this, Roberto?

Dr Roberto Minunno (01:59):

Yeah. So recycling is a really dangerous word. We love recycling because it makes us feel... Well, for many reasons, one is because it truly helps us maintaining... Help us to maintain materials in circularity, but also to a limit. Recycling glass usually means then the glass can crushed and ends up into asphalt or mix for streets. And so in the building context, this is even more dangerous because we say, oh, it's fine to use concrete because then it gets recycled. But that is not true. The real word here that we should use is down-cycling, which means that the second material that we produce from the recycling... Quoting recycling processes, is actually lower quality than the first one. So I go back the concrete case for example, there are so many tonnes of concrete in each building. In fact, only just foundations, which we don't even see.

Dr Roberto Minunno (02:54):

Once the building reach the end of life, these concrete blocks get crushed. And what is crushed at the end are basically gravel or stones. So now new concrete has a component which is gravel and then part is sand, part is water, but of course there cement and other additives. So if you look at these flow, it comes natural to think that the final product of the recycling process is only one component of the new flow into the new concrete. Therefore, we can't say it's recycled. It's going to be reused somehow into the process. It going to be reused is another tricky keyword to use, but it really, we should say down-cycling. Now we say recycling, that makes us feel good because we feel guilt free, but we should think twice, consumer goods are the same, plastic, glasses or everything that we think will be recycled.

Dr Roberto Minunno (03:50):

Yeah, really that's not the truth. When it comes to timber, it's really similar to concrete. Timber in second life, is not going to be exactly recycled. And so many of these processes on top of that will also entail lots of carbon that get released because of these pre-manufacturing recycling processes. And therefore what we call embodied energy and embodied carbon increases. So steel is a great material, we love steel, engineers love steel. It's really adaptable and usable in many different cases. When it comes to reusing steel or rather recycling, because we're here, it has to be melted and therefore it takes so much more heat to be than re-manufacturing in a second instance, second product.

Jessica Morrison (04:37):

Is the byproduct though of that process, better than, say the byproduct of the actual creation of the product? Does that make sense?

Dr Roberto Minunno (04:44):

It makes sort of sense.

Jessica Morrison (04:45):

It's like a lesser of two here. I don't-

Dr Roberto Minunno (04:48):

The answer is, it depends. In the case of steel. Yes, it's better. It's better to recycle, because sure the second life, say if I get a tonne of steel and then recycle and get another tonne of steel, the second one needed less energy than the first one to be produced, less energy, less carbon emissions and so on. So yeah, the quick answer is yes, for steel, not so much for concrete, not so much for timber. And then again, timber is a bit trickier because it depends on how you source the timber, whether sustainable forestry or not. So it's a really complex discussion of course.

Jessica Morrison (05:22):


Dr Roberto Minunno (05:23):

Yeah, it's pretty, pretty complex. And that applies to many other goods. We like to talk about buildings and that's what my research stream is about, but that applies to so many different goods. And I want to keep it more general for the audience. But in theory, we should look at these. We should really look at these processes for everything we touch and we use, if we want to make a difference.

Jessica Morrison (05:45):

Looking beyond environmental impact, what social and economic opportunities would be offered by a circular economy?

Dr Roberto Minunno (05:52):

Yeah. So the case study that I started has great environmental benefits, which I believe we'll touch on later, but in general circular economy, it's called economy for a reason, because we will be able to create number of jobs when it comes to reuse or repurpose things as they are. So clearly yes, there is an environmental benefit, because again, it kind of sounds obvious. If we have something and we reuse a number of times as it is, of course it has less environmental impact. And then again, there are a bit of trade offs that we might dig into later, I suppose, but when it comes to social and economic... So economic, as I said, it's quite easy to explain meaning that, that number of jobs that can be created around the circular economy, probably the most popular forum for circular economy is called the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is sort of... It's in Northern Europe and England, of course. Where they started the circular economy in advanced levels and sort of in general high levels.

Dr Roberto Minunno (06:51):

And they suppose that there will be a huge number of jobs that can be created, but also millions of dollars that can be invested in this framework. When it comes to social aspects, it really depends. What I'm thinking now is that for example, so many unsustainable industries, when it comes to social aspects, such as ship wreck system. Ships get sent to Asia and Africa. States which are really poor and they involve lots of people to disassemble, and these people get sick because of the pollutants that get released from the ship wrecks. A circular economy, if done well, could stop these problems by integrating reusing framework, that doesn't really... It kind of stops these chemicals to be unleashed and keeps them as they are, again, for longer. So, that will be probably a health benefit in adopting these frameworks again.

Jessica Morrison (07:43):

Is there anything standing in the way of the circular economy model being adopted by the building industry?

Dr Roberto Minunno (07:49):

Lots. So, how to start? So let's say there are three main barriers, and then I'll tell you which ones they are. But also there are many more, which are sort of minor. Anyone sitting in a building now, including us in this building. If you look around, the building is made out of concrete, bricks, mortar, and so on. So the main big barrier is the concrete... The buildings are built as monoliths somehow. So they are one block. Sure, they come in components, like bricks, or again, concrete and mortar, but then once everything solidifies, then it stays there forever. And that's what we like of buildings. They give us security.

Jessica Morrison (08:25):

[crosstalk 00:08:25] To be stable, right?

Dr Roberto Minunno (08:26):

To be there, yeah. To be there for long. And we like the idea, we sort of knock on the wall, it feels solid. If it's concrete and so on.

Dr Roberto Minunno (08:34):

But of course circular economy will promote idea reusing components. And when you want to reuse part of a building, it implies that you have to disassemble it. And now good luck disassembly building where we are, it's practically impossible. So that is the main, the biggest barrier of adopting circular economy to buildings that are not designed for it. The second one is, say even if we were able to disassemble everything, all the components of the buildings, and again, we aren't, but even if we were, all of these components will be different in shape, measure, colour, structural characteristics, and so on. And that is because, again, we love buildings to be customizable, to make us happy, the shape and the function we want, and therefore architects play a big role in this. So, that is another large issue. Because again, let's present that the first buyer doesn't exist.

Dr Roberto Minunno (09:25):

So, which would mean that we can't disassemble buildings. Well then yeah, once we can, then what do we do with these components? Because they are different. So that also leads me into the third barrier, which is, okay, let's say we can disassemble buildings. Let's say all components are similar. Again, they aren't. The third barrier is there is no supply chain to reuse components. So that is what we call the closed loop supply chain. So the supply chains go downstream from the supplier to the user. The same happens to buildings, but they don't go up back to the suppliers. So these are the three main barriers. And I can tell you how modular buildings are a good example to solve these barriers. So, as I said, I'll go through these quickly, again, buildings aren't disassemblable, but components aren't the same.

Dr Roberto Minunno (10:17):

And then there is no supply chain. So modular buildings are offsite constructions, which are built in a factory. And the whole system is about building them through smaller components, such as steel trusses and beams. So surely enough, these components are bolted together. Sometimes they're welded and we can avoid that through engineering processes and design, but they can be disassembled because they have been assembled in the first time with bolts and nuts and so on.

Dr Roberto Minunno (10:48):

So, that already the first barrier sort of goes away. Once you look at modular buildings. Also, the second barrier, which is dimensions. So all modular buildings are manufactured in a little number of components, which are very similar to each other. And that is because a big part of the industry process is a lean manufacturing process, which means having small components in a... Indeed, in a lean chain. And therefore, they all are very similar. Another problem of modular buildings is they are transported on trucks. Therefore, the dimensions are limited to the traffic dimensions, say four metres by ten, twelve. They're all similar though. So, that's another barrier that is already overcome by using modular buildings.

Dr Roberto Minunno (11:31):

Now the third barrier still stays there because we still need to implement closed loop supply chain, even when we adopt modular buildings. But we are looking into that.

Jessica Morrison (11:42):

Part of your research.

Dr Roberto Minunno (11:42):

It is part of an upcoming research. I hope. Depending on the grants that we can receive, of course.

Jessica Morrison (11:46):

Oh, okay. Watch this space.

Jessica Morrison (11:48):

Thinking about the building industry, and maybe it's at a lower scale, but could adopting a more circular economy model assist, when you have an industry that appears to be having an issue with supply of products. For example, we're looking at just doing a pretty simple house extension, and we're being told by builders, they can't provide a fixed cost because they cannot themselves foresee what the price of steel, timber, et cetera, is going to be. Bricks. So could this be an answer to a potential issue like that, which, like I said is smaller scale, but still part of the industry?

Dr Roberto Minunno (12:23):

It depends on the boundary. Really. It depends on where you are, I suppose in Australia and thinking of... Not today, but maybe in the future, if we were to integrate a circular economy to the building industry, to try to integrate that, that will mean that buildings can be disassembled say in 20 years time. Building can be disassembled really easily. Therefore, if you do need to make an extension to build an extension and you probably do, and many people do at the moment, that means that you... And you are after a certain type of window, well, the window might be actually released into the market in the nearby building, which is de-commissioned. So again, if your neighbours are... In fact, if you drive around Perth and WA you'll see so many houses that are just crushed as you drive, and you'll see them. If you were to live near, you will go, "Wait a second. I could have used the window, but I can't get a new one because of the supply chain issues that COVID and so on are creating."

Dr Roberto Minunno (13:22):

So yeah, I do believe that applying circular economy in a large scale and in the future with prompted technology, which again is part of the research that I hopefully will conduct. Will help people like you. In fact, all people that are trying to find components that they need. So hopefully, yes. The answer is yes. That's really in the future, but we'll work to that.

Jessica Morrison (13:43):

It could be beneficial. Roberto as part of your thesis, you and your team at Curtin's Sustainability Policy Institute created the Legacy Living Lab. It's a modular building designed using circular economy principles. Can you tell me a little bit more about the lab and how it was constructed?

Dr Roberto Minunno (14:00):

There is lots to say about the lab and I'm really excited because of course, as I say, it was sort of my... Almost the offspring of the...

Jessica Morrison (14:08):

Your baby.

Dr Roberto Minunno (14:10):

It is. I shouldn't say mine only. In fact, I want to give credit to Prof. Greg Morison who is my supervisor in the PhD. And my amazing colleague, Timothy O’Grady. Who's just finishing his PhD now, in fact.

Dr Roberto Minunno (14:23):

And so, yeah, we worked together for three years more crafting everything that we needed to create this building. So all of the barriers that I mentioned before, they... Of course, we crashed into those high speed, because one day we sat and we're like, oh, let's try to build a circular economy building. Well, good luck. First of all, we didn't have any money for it, but we won't go down there. But also again, building a circular economy building, it's incredibly complex.

Dr Roberto Minunno (14:54):

So one thing we did was working really hard with industry partners, which we also, I really want to thank now, there were too many to name and... But we have collected 26 industry partners. And for people that know what the PhD is, that that is a good number. It takes time and relationships, and again, with a good team work and team manage this really well. Now a bit more of a detail. So the Legacy Living lab, yes, it is a circular economy building. So what does that mean? It means that it's disassemblable, reusable, moveable, in fact its entirely disassemblable, barely with any big tools. It's quite large. So it's 250 metres square. It's on two-story, it's located in Fremantle at the moment. But as I said, it's moveable. So it will be moved in a couple of years. We don't know where we go. So maybe we'll be part of your extension.

Jessica Morrison (15:49):

Yeah. Maybe.

Jessica Morrison (15:50):

Hey, I'd welcome. Yeah.

Dr Roberto Minunno (15:52):

So what we did basically was to... And also, as I said before, we needed to use waste, to claim that is a circular economy building, we need to make sure that we used waste as a resource. Which is exactly the application of what the circular economy says. And we were so lucky because we were at the right time at the right spot.

Dr Roberto Minunno (16:11):

So we were talking to a modular building company. I approached the general manager and I told him... His name is Mike. And I said, Hey, Mike, we would like to build something special, but we would like to do it with waste. Do we happen to have any modules you don't need? When I say modules, you can imagine sort of a sea container. Quite large. And he said, well, as it happens, I do. He had about 40 of these huge, really huge sort of boxes, steel boxes in his backyard, in the factory.

Dr Roberto Minunno (16:41):

And he was doing nothing with those because they belonged to a previous project which failed. And so he said, look, take as many as you want, because really I don't want to deal with them. I don't know what to do with them. In fact, for him the best option would've been recycle them, which as I said before, entails lots of embodied energy, embodied carbon. So I was really glad that he donated some of these. We took eight of these modules and then another core partner gave us some cash to key costs, to start actually the process. We re-engineered the shape of L3. And for those will come see it or see the pictures online, a little hint, if it looks a bit quirky because these eight modules belong to four different houses. So all the shapes were different. All the measures were different.

Dr Roberto Minunno (17:29):

So we had to come up with solutions, to make it as a homogeneous as possible, as buildings should be. So there are five modules at the ground floor and three at the top, plus the balcony, which allows us to see our surrounding, because also the space is used. One of the main functions of the space is to be... It's a sales agency for our core partners. So they come there and they sell houses to customers. And it's quite successful as far as I heard. So, and then we had to look into little details such as the internal cladding. We wanted the space to be disassemble, as I said, so we ditched plasterboard, because of it's not disassemblable. And instead we put plywood sheets. So there was a lot of work in design to make sure these sheets were not cut as much as possible. They were maintained as whole, because another... Then again, see how many things are the circular economy. Another part is, of course you have to avoid off cuts because if you... The more you cut, the more you sort of stop the usability or hinder usability.

Dr Roberto Minunno (18:34):

So we maintain sheets as whole as possible. And they are disassemblable with a screwdriver. Also the building, one of the main feature that I came up with, when I firstly ideated, we can say the space. I thought this building has to be future proof. We don't know what future is going to deliver. So I said, well, what if tomorrow new technology comes with smart cameras or something we want embed in the walls, different installation system, changing windows. What if that happens? Well, we have to create ways to implement these things. But as I know, we have to be able to disassemble all of the wall panels as much as possible so that we can implement all of these technologies, test them, or even just use them normally would without creating any waste.

Dr Roberto Minunno (19:17):

So again, if you see pictures and I strongly recommend taking a look online, you'll see it's all disassemblable inside, with a screwdriver. It's really as simple as that. We have carpet, which comes from an old building in a CBD. This is another nice story. This building was bought at the end of the mining boom by a company. And it was fully furnished, but then no one used the building for three years. The new buyer, after three years said, oh, beautiful. I'm going to buy this building, but I really don't like the carpets. Please take it back. So one of our partners said, well, we have this pile of carpet tiles. We don't know what to do with them. Our alternative will be sending it to Sydney to be reshaped and remanufacture, again, more embodied carbon and the energy, but you can have them.

Dr Roberto Minunno (20:00):

And as it happens, they are the perfect colour palette that we needed. And again, it's a good example of circular economy. As a whole, the building includes 18 tonnes of steel, and that is mainly been reused, as I said. Another really great feature, which is the only one you can't see, is the foundations.

Dr Roberto Minunno (20:20):

So again, the company who were to manufacture the building, they said, well, we're going to use foundations as we always do, and they're going to be concrete. And we said, no concrete, we don't want it for all the reasons that I mentioned. It doesn't fit the circular economy. And they said, okay, well, what else?

Dr Roberto Minunno (20:37):

And then team came up with an idea which is a commercial product. Again, I prefer not to name them, but it's basically steel foundations. So we ditched 20 tonnes of concrete, which is a really large amount, basically 13 metre cubes.

Dr Roberto Minunno (20:52):

And instead we have 700 kilogrammes of steel that support the whole building. So again, 20 tonnes versus 700 kilogrammes. So 0.7 tonnes. It's a big save when it comes to CO2 emissions, quick reference, I don't want to go down to numbers too much, but every to of concrete is equal to about one tonne of CO2 emissions. When it comes to steel is about 20 times more. So if you do the math, it's still a big saving. Even when you look at CO2 emissions, not only material. And then there is the benefit at the end of life. When we are going to move the building, we're not going to leave 20 tonnes of rubbish. And concrete to just be dealt with. No, we're going to leave 700 kilogrammes of steel, which can sort of easily recycled. And I say recycled, because it is recycled. We're going to look into reusability of the foundations when it comes, when time comes.

Dr Roberto Minunno (21:42):

But at this stage, I can't ensure that they're going to be reused. On top of that, we have 8 kilowatt solar power system, which feeds a local battery, which is part of the larger project, which again, it's complex to discuss here, but basically we run almost off grid. We have an electric car, a fully electric car, which I don't feel guilty driving around Perth. Although I only use it for work, because it's part of Curtin fleet, but again, electric car, fully fueled by solar energy. So again, entirely clean.

Dr Roberto Minunno (22:17):

And now we are moving into the operational part of it. So I'm going to briefly go down into what the lifecycle assessment is because I wish more people think about lifecycle assessments. So when we think about life cycles, we think of production, operation, and then end of life and eventually reuse. So I discussed a little bit of production, as I said, the Living lab is made, built with waste basically.

Dr Roberto Minunno (22:44):

And the end of life, as I mentioned... Hopefully will never come because we keep moving the building whenever, wherever is needed, but now we're looking into operation of it. So how good is it in a way, how much energy does it take to maintain a good comfort inside. While we're looking into that in several ways, one of them is working with another instant partner who is one of WA's biggest windows producers. They just last week changed all the windows from single glazing to double glazing in about 10 hours. So again, good luck doing that at home.

Jessica Morrison (23:17):


Dr Roberto Minunno (23:18):

They came up with a really interesting product, which is basically a sandwich of glass, which is what double glazing is, but that will fit the movable part of your window. So they don't have to change the whole window system. And we're doing at L3, is measuring. So we collected one year data of temperature inside and outside. So we have 10 different spots where we collect this kind of information and then all the energy consumption required to maintain the comfort. So between 22 and 24 degrees, and humidity and so on, and we also will do the same for the second year with double glazing. So at the end of the second year, or at the end of each season, we're going to compare results from the first year to the second. And that is more than what the modelling will give you. Because sure, we can always, we could've used modelling to understand these two aspects, but they are never reality, they are model. What we're going to do, we're going to have first data and primary data, which we can then elaborate and see what the benefit is for the market.

Dr Roberto Minunno (24:19):

Another project we have running at the moment is... It has to do with smart devices. So we have an array of smart blinds that go up and down when there's too much sun on one side, too much sun on the other. And also we have smart lights that ensure that inside the humans are feeling as they would outside. So they follow the circadian rhythm. And so we are combining the lighting. We're combining the temperature, we're combining the blinds and brightness, to make sure that the space is also really healthy to live within or to work in. And on top of that, we also have quality sensors such as CO2, the amount of CO2 particles in the air and other particulate to understand also how healthy it is, form that standpoint. So there is lots going on here.

Jessica Morrison (25:03):

Very busy lab.

Dr Roberto Minunno (25:04):

It's quite busy. Yeah. It's really exciting to be there.

Jessica Morrison (25:07):

I bet. What has been the industry response to the Legacy Living Lab?

Dr Roberto Minunno (25:13):

Look, it's really amazing.

Jessica Morrison (25:15):

I mean, the fact you had, what? 20 industry partner... 26 industry partners just for its construction, is pretty impressive.

Dr Roberto Minunno (25:21):

Yeah. And they keep increasing, because of course every time we have to do something different or we come up with more ideas, we contact more industry partners. And most times they are more than happy to join us in the partnership. They might give us some contribution in kind or sometimes data, sometimes products. So the response has been quite amazing. It's hard to even manage the industries because there's so many people that want to use the space. They use the space as a site as a sales agency to support. To say it, because this building is also on a construction site where they're building homes, traditional types of homes. I can't do anything about it. I wish I could.

Jessica Morrison (25:59):


Dr Roberto Minunno (26:01):

We're doing our best. Yes. But then again, we have one of the core industry partner, which is a governmental agency for development. They are keen to readopt what we built there in the future in many different instances. And that's fantastic because I can see how... Maybe I'm dreaming, but I can see how we are slowly changing the trends in WA, which has been for too long, a linear economy. And I can see that happening, hopefully.

Jessica Morrison (26:29):

What would you say is the biggest barrier to the circular economy model being implemented in the construction industry? You mentioned technology before. Can you talk to me a little bit about why that might be a barrier into the future?

Dr Roberto Minunno (26:44):

Well, funny enough. Yes. Technology will be a barrier because we need to... Technology is more of a tool. So we need the right tool to solve a problem. I think that policy might be a barrier. The market itself is a big... It's really flawed. The way I see it, of course. I'm saying that because the construction building industry provokes or creates 40% of the waste every year, globally, 40 to 50. So not sustainable, not good. We can do better. As I said, technology, it's part of the problem, it's part of a solution. We dream to build a platform where we can see when buildings are disassembled and what's come down and what can be reused. So that's basically my vision for the future. But once we apply that we still need to solve our other problems. As I mentioned, politics, regulation, recertification is a big one because again, even if we are able to take parts of a building and use in another building, we still need to ensure that they are safe to be used.

Jessica Morrison (27:45):

I was going to ask you about that. I feel like engineers, builders, their main thing is, is this sturdy? Is this safe? And obviously that's what we as humans all need, don't we? And maybe is that a barrier? Because you've sort of said earlier that these reused materials aren't... They're sort of downgraded, so they're probably not considered quality wise where they need to be. So is that really a big barrier as well?

Dr Roberto Minunno (28:08):

Yes. It's a barrier when it comes down to the price. And that is because it's not too hard to re-certify products. Say if I disassemble L3, I'll find smaller components such as building steel beams and so on. It's not too hard to test the structural stability. There are machines to do that, and testing. The point is that when you do that, then increase the price. And sometimes having something new is cheaper and that is a big problem. So we really need to push this problem from different aspects. There is a mindset of people that don't like to buy all used stuff, and we know that's true. We have the regulation that supports this. We need to make it cheaper. And also we might even need to make more expensive, the new products, somehow. Applying some sort of taxes.

Dr Roberto Minunno (28:55):

There are carbon credits, to help people that save carbon, but that should be also carbon taxes to hinder people from buying more expensive things that are new and support the used market. So there are several solutions to several barriers, but they're not in place yet. Not fully. I will say that re-manufacturing. Yes. That again, is a big barrier, when it comes to the price. We were lucky enough to maintain everything in your house. So that was possible, but I don't know either would be possible in future instances for other buildings.

Jessica Morrison (29:24):

The technology thing. Because that's when you were talking about how you met with this industry partner and they had this... The carpet tiles, for example. And obviously that was your focus was to create this building with reused materials. So I suppose, yeah. How do you do that on a larger scale? Like you said, with the technology and having the sort of this building's being decommissioned, these are the products, is that what you're looking to research into the future is that what's required to sort of help this along?

Dr Roberto Minunno (29:50):

It is. So that is a real dream. I'll try to explain it as easy as possible and it's really futuristic.

Jessica Morrison (29:57):

We love that.

Dr Roberto Minunno (29:59):

So basically the idea is if you close your eye, think of in 20 years time, we might have... We would love to have a space where all buildings are in a way digitised and all components of a building are in a sort of a cloud. Again, futuristic and sort of sci-fi. But if all of these components were stored into a cloud and then the information stored will tell you the colour, the dimensions, structural characteristics, as I mentioned and so on. And also at what time and what year the building would be disassembled. Again, granted, it has to be disassemblable. Then as you're building your extension in your backyard, then you can go, oh wait a second, I really need that component. And it's going to be cheaper because it's coming from maybe a neighbour. Maybe you can... Well, of course, we need to look into how to make it feasible when it comes to certification and so on.

Dr Roberto Minunno (30:55):

But if we overcome these barriers, then the city of the future is a city that is really fluid. You disassemble a building here and you build one next door, which might take part of X building and Y building, and then you put them together and you create a combination. Which is exactly what we did. So we proved that it's doable. We proved that it saves. In fact, we didn't talk about that too much, but we saved 88% of CO2 emissions only by thinking twice, not by changing the materials, not largely. Yeah, sure, we avoid concrete, but that's because we thought about it and we really used another product that was already available. So we didn't create a new wheel. We just use it in a different way and a repeat nearly 90% of CO2 emissions equivalent for those that know what I mean. Which I want to highlight this number because if all industries were to save 90% of emissions today, not only in building industry. Then we will not have a climate emergency, at all.

Dr Roberto Minunno (31:56):

And that's what we want to apply. That's what we are striving to change. So the city of the future will be built in such a fluid way so that we don't need to import anything. We don't need to create anything or really minimal, which is fine once you what you're doing.

Dr Roberto Minunno (32:11):

And this concept is called buildings as material banks. So a building is not only a shelter it's not only a place where we live and operate, but it's also... We can see it as bank of materials that will come into circulation at a certain time. And that's hard. We hopefully are going to implement this framework to the Legacy Living Lab. And then it will be a start. The problem here is also that geography doesn't help because WA, it's typically a little backward, but this concept has been applied in Northern Europe or at least started in Northern Europe. So we hope to collaborate with Northern European universities to do that. Because again, it will be a global challenge.

Jessica Morrison (32:55):

Absolutely. Really, really fascinating, got some challenges, but some exciting things to look forward to in this space. Just lastly, are there any circular economy principles that we can all easily apply to our own homes?

Dr Roberto Minunno (33:08):

Yeah, that's... See, that's a tricky question because it really depends on which products we're looking into. So I will say the more general answer I can give you is we need to be mindful, we need to be aware of what we are consuming every time. It can be small changes or big changes. It can be you deciding to buy, to look into reused components for your extension in the backyard, or you can be... It can be avoiding buying so many clothes that we don't need. So circular economy, the first aspect of a circular economy is avoidance, of reduction. Then it comes then it comes reusability, disassemblability, which of course we as home customers, most likely won't be too much power on these things, but we can make a difference, when it comes to what we buy, what we consume.

Dr Roberto Minunno (33:59):

Another level is... Again, that depends on the education we have towards the problem. That is demanding a change. We can demand our politicians. We can demand the industry towards a shift. Say if I were to build a house now, most likely I will try to keep my faith and build a modular house. It would be hard because there aren't many. But if I do that, and then you do that, Jess, and then someone else does it, then one day the market will change. But it really takes collective effort and educational knowledge. So that's what we can do.

Jessica Morrison (34:35):

Many facets to this topic. Thank you so much, Roberto, for coming in today, really. Really, really interesting and lots of things to think about and good luck with the rest of the research you're doing in this space.

Dr Roberto Minunno (34:46):

Thank you.

Jessica Morrison (34:47):

You've been listening to The Future Of. A podcast powered by Curtin University. If you've enjoyed this episode, please share it. And if you want to hear from more experts, stay up to date by subscribing to us on your favourite podcast app. Join us next time.