“Circular design is an experience, an aesthetic choice, and now people can make an active choice to consume in this way”, says Kasper Guldager Jensen from Danish architect, 3XN. “It is not just a concept any longer, it is in the marketplace now”, he says
As low energy building strategies are becoming more accepted and commonly used, the next big concept driving sustainable design innovation is resource use and disrupting the current linear approach to materials and waste.
Principles of a circular economy
The Circular Economy is an approach that requires gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and aims to design “waste” out of the system. The current construction process is a linear progression of design, build, use, and disposal and it is not economically or environmentally feasible. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the circular economy is based on three principles 1:
- Design out waste and pollution;
- Keep products and materials in use;
- Regenerate natural systems
The benefits of a new system, graphic courtesy of the Ellen McArthur Foundation
There are numerous benefits of rethinking the concept of waste and focusing on cradle-to-cradle, closed-loop, circular thinking. Construction waste ends in landfills2, contributes to pollution, and the World Bank estimates a dramatic global increase 3.40 billion tons of waste annually by 20503. Buildings have various components, materials, and layers that have different life spans and can be reused or changed at different times.
It makes good economic and environmental sense to design buildings that can be flexibly reconfigured as needs change, and that can be maintained, renovated, and reused over time. Rather than materials and components being thrown ‘away’ when a building needs renovating, joint efforts within the building industry need to be established to make sure valuable resources can be given a new life in the same or a different project. To do this, designers and clients need to know a lot more about exactly what materials and products are in their buildings.