Barriers to implementing the circular economy in the construction industry: A critical review

Rabia Charef, Jean Claude Morel, Kambiz Rakhshan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


To facilitate the adoption of the circular economy (CE) in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, some authors have demonstrated the potential of recent designs that take into account the sustainable management of an asset’s end-of-life (EOL), providing an alternative to the dominant designs that end with demolition. However, there is no review of the literature that encompasses a large range of sustainable designs in the current CE context. This paper provides a critical review of journal papers that deal with the barriers to implementing sustainable designs and approaches to the EOL management of assets that have the potential to fulfil the principles of the CE. Eighteen approaches related to prefabrication, design for change, design for deconstruction, reverse logistics, waste management and closed-loop systems were found. Through an analysis of the barriers that are common among these 18 approaches, we classified them into six different categories (organisational, economical, technical, social, political and environmental). Two Sankey diagrams illustrate the interrelation between the barriers, their categories and the 18 approaches. The diagrams clearly show that most of the barriers are common to multiple approaches and that most of the barriers relate to organisational concerns. The study gives a detailed map of the barriers that would help stakeholders from the AEC sector develop strategies to overcome the current obstacles in the shift to a CE.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12989
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Barriers
  • Circular economy
  • Critical literature review
  • Design for deconstruction
  • Sustainable approach
  • Sustainable asset lifecycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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