The Circular Building

An installation created outside The Building Centre for the London Design Festival 2016

The construction industry produces three times more waste than UK households – half of which is not recycled.

This waste is a product of our current model for using materials. At present we operate a linear economy, using a ‘take-make-dispose’ model. This approach is unsustainable; it degenerates natural capital and creates waste faster than the biosphere can respond. But how do we escape?

The circular economy is part of the answer. In the circular economy, value is preserved by avoiding or postponing disposal, while utility is maximized through sharing assets and optimising resource use. 

Arup, The Built Environment Trust, Frener & Reifer and BAM have teamed up to discover how we might apply circular economy principles to the design and construction of buildings. Can we design a building where, at the end of its life, all its components and materials are be re-used, re-manufactured or re-cycled? Asking this question profoundly alters design and construction priorities. Supplier engagement is critical, with both designers and suppliers challenged to think differently about materials and construction processes.

This new thinking demands innovative solutions. The Circular Building explores how we might:

  • Lease rather than purchase materials and products
  • Maximise off-site fabrication
  • Select materials that can be re-used, remanufactured or recycled at end of life
  • Choose mechanical and push-fit connections rather than adhesives to allow deconstruction
  • Avoid wet trades
  • Design fitout to comprise interchangeable panels leased from suppliers
  • Ventilation provided by prototype equipment made from recycled plastic, cardboard and re-manufactured drinks cans
  • Electrical system is low voltage and off-grid, facilitating future flexibility and ease-of-maintenance

Implementing circular economy principles in construction will be a long process, but by testing what is possible now, the Circular Building highlights the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Built for the London Design Festival 2016, The Circular Building will be open to the public Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm. It will be accompanied by Circular Living, an exhibition exploring the impact of the circular economy in a range of industries, from fashion to product design.

Please note that The Circular Building is no longer open from Thursday 6 October.