Buildings for the biosphere (and their indoors for the technosphere) - A circular economy view for the construction industry

Pomponi, Francesco and Moncaster, Alice (2016). Buildings for the biosphere (and their indoors for the technosphere) - A circular economy view for the construction industry. In: Industrial Ecology and Green Transformation ISIE America 2016, 25-27 May 2016, Bogata, Colombia.

Abstract

One of the founding principles of the Circular Economy is to foster the focus on longer-lasting products. Arguably, extremely few products in the present days last as long as buildings do, yet even so only rarely does the actual end of a building’s life correspond with the end of its potential life. In a context where the built environment contributes the most to materials extraction, final energy consumption, GHG emissions, and waste, this puts additional pressure on the natural environment, through unnecessary consumption of finite natural resources and growing generation of waste flows. This paper discusses in what ways and to what extent current LCA and whole life carbon methodologies can be a measure of circularity for buildings. The aim is to develop a framework for circular buildings through a better combined understanding of their design, technical, and cultural life. The paper sets the scene with a reflection on current trends in buildings LCA and the theoretical foundations laid by Frank Duffy and Stewart Brand (shearing layers of buildings) and William McDonough and Michael Braungart (Cradle2Cradle design), as discussed at events in the UK towards the end of 2015. We conclude that in order to bring about circularity in the built environment the greatest challenge is not technological, but rather the necessary behavioural and cultural changes needed in both the design and use of buildings.

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