Industry 4.0 and the circular economy: using design–stage digital technology to reduce construction waste

Anuja Talla, Stephen McIlwaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
729 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: This study examines how applying innovative I4.0 technologies at the design stage can help reduce construction waste and improve the recovery, reuse, and recycling of construction materials.

Design/methodology/approach: The study adopts a three-stage sequential mixed methods approach, involving a thorough review of current literature, interviews with six experts in digital construction, and a survey of 75 experienced industry practitioners.

Findings: The study identifies and discusses how ten specific digital technologies can improve design stage processes leading to improved circularity in construction, namely, (1) additive and robotic manufacturing; (2) artificial intelligence; (3) big data analytics; (4) blockchain technology; (5) building information modelling; (6) digital platforms; (7) digital twins; (8) geographic information systems; (9) material passports and databases; and (10) Internet of things. It demonstrates that by using these technologies to support circular design concepts within the sector, material recycling rates can be improved and unnecessary construction waste reduced.

Practical implications: This research provides researchers and practitioners with improved understanding of the potential of digital technology to recycle construction waste at the design stage, and may be used to create an implementation roadmap to assist designers in finding tools and identifying them.

Originality/value: Little consideration has been given to how digital technology can support design stage measures to reduce construction waste. This study fills a gap in knowledge of a fast-moving topic.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
JournalSmart and Sustainable Built Environment
Early online date01 Sept 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Sept 2022


  • construction
  • waste
  • Digital
  • technology
  • circular economy
  • Industry 4.0


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