Circular Economy Research in the Built Environment: A Theoretical Contribution

Pomponi, Francesco and Moncaster, Alice (2017). Circular Economy Research in the Built Environment: A Theoretical Contribution. In: Dastbaz, Mohammad; Gorse, Chris and Moncaster, Alice eds. Building Information Modelling, Building Performance, Design and Smart Construction. Cham: Springer, pp. 31–44.



Circular economy is quickly gaining momentum across numerous research fields. The founding principles of circular economies lie in a different perspective on, and management of, resources under the idea that an ever-growing economic development and profitability can happen without an ever-growing pressure on the environment. As such, the built environment has a lot to contribute, being the sector with the greatest environmental impacts. However, the few existing cases of current research in the built environment from a circular economy perspective seem to have just replaced the 3R principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) with the new ‘buzz-word’. In this paper, we argue that a significantly different research approach is necessary if the circular economy is to keep up to its promise of being a new paradigm for sustainability. We therefore propose a framework to formulate building research from within a circular economy perspective. The framework is built around six pillars and acknowledges the key role of interdisciplinary research and that of both bottom-up and top-down initiatives to facilitate the transition to ‘circular’ buildings. Although theoretical in nature, the framework has been tested against current discourse about buildings and circular economies and it has proven a valuable tool to cluster existing initiatives and highlight missing interdisciplinary links. As such it can provide a valuable starting point to contribute to the theoretical foundations of building research from within the new paradigm of circular economies and also shape future research directions.

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