The Circular Built Tool

Ready for circular building?

With this tool, you can make your circular ambitions concrete when realizing a project, from beginning to end, with all parties involved. This way, your project will be completely circularly built.

Why a "Circular Built" tool?

Every construction project is different and has its own specific context and preconditions. Moreover, the definition of "circular construction" or a "circular building" is not unambiguous to this day. So translating the theoretical principles of circular building into concrete actions or requirements is different for each project and its practical implementation is a very challenging exercise.

GRO, a tool developed by the Flemish government, allows you to concretise sustainability in projects by working with an ambition level and a selection of sustainability criteria. This tool contains a very comprehensive list of criteria and looks at sustainability in the broad sense of the word with also a lot of criteria that check the circularity of a project.  But if you really want to focus on circularity, the criteria from GRO are not sufficient in some cases.

The "Circular Built" tool is a guidance tool that allows you to define, monitor and evaluate circular ambitions in construction projects. It also allows construction partners to communicate transparently about this.This way, you can maximise the concrete circular ambitions in a construction project from start to completion, by all parties involved. And so your project really will be "circular built". 

dashboard tool

Whom is the "Circular Built" tool for?

The architect

When an architect receives an assignement requesting circularity, the tool can be used to demonstrate the circularity of the project and, more specifically, the design choices. Using the circular design guidelines, it can be illustrated to what extent a design is change-oriented or to which degree building components are designed for reuse and recycling. Furthermore, the tool provides guidance on how to integrate recycled materials into a project and how to approach this. Guidelines on the choice of materials and low environmental impact can also be useful for an architect. Finally, with the theme "Getting ahead in the transition", the tool offers possible strategies for being a frontrunner in information management and/or deploying innovative business models or processes.

The client

By making circular ambitions concrete and capturing them in a visual way, the "Circular Built" tool allows communication on circularity between different parties. Initially, the client or building owner, who has to incorporate these ambitions into a programme, a competition, a suitable form of contract, specifications... is the most appropriate party to start working with the tool. By going through the different steps, one can arrive at a clear and concrete query and assignement

Since the integration of circularity can only succeed if construction partners are involved in the project at an early stage, other parties such as the architect, contractor, study agencies or experts can also be involved in using the tool.

The contractor

As circularity is included in increasingly more projects, the contractor will also be confronted with additional circularity requirements at some point. When circular ambitions in a project are made concrete using this tool, it makes it easier for the contractor to assess and correctly budget for the additional requirements in the construction process.

As part of circular construction, an "open" query approach is chosen more frequently, where cooperation at an early stage is encouraged. It is then up to the contractor to come up with solutions and demonstrate their circularity. Using the tool, the contractor, together with the other project partners, can illustrate circularity and thus distinguish itself from its competitors. Moreover, the tool also provides concrete guidance on how to realise certain circular ambitions. For instance, it can illustrate to what extent the chosen building systems and connection methods enable reuse and recycling in the future. Or which concrete measures are needed to maximise reuse in an existing situation. Whenever a building passport is requested, a task that typically falls to the contractor, the tool indicates exactly what this entails. In addition, the tool illustrates what the contractor can do about waste management during the construction phase, the maintenance of the building afterwards, documentation management or innovative business models.

Construction team or consortia

Finally, the tool allows different building partners to jointly translate a client's circular ambitions into concrete measures and requirements. In this way, circularity is communicated in an unambiguous and transparent way and all parties are on the same page from the start.

How do you proceed?

STEP 1: Formulating an overall vision

At the start of a project in which you have circular ambitions, it is important to focus and concretise them. Circular construction is a broad concept that is not understood by everyone in the same way and can covers a lot of different aspects. To clarify this, the first step of this guidance tool consists of describing a clear vision of the project's circularity based on possible future scenarios for the building. It is important here to sufficiently take into account the project specific context and preconditions. In STEP 1, you are asked to briefly write out this vision. A few questions are also formulated to help you write a good vision text. 

this shows how to fill in the tool
STEP 2: Setting general circular ambition

In this step, based on the circularity vision described earlier, an overall ambition level is put forward for each theme. This is done by assigning a percentage to each of the 4 themes as to indicate the extent to which you want to work on them. This provides a visual representation of the overall desired circular ambition level for each of the 4 main themes.

Each project has its own specific context and boundary conditions, it is therefore impossible to give maximum priority to each theme. In this step, the aim is to visualise in an approachable way the effort you want to make for each theme as to achieve a certain level of circularity.

STEP 3: Concrete selection of circular requirements per theme

In steps 3.1 to 3.4, you need to make a selection of what you want to include in your project and this per major theme. This is done by indicating each time with "yes" or "no" which circular requirements you want to consider. In this way, you make the desired circularity of your project more concrete.

A distinction is made between "MUST HAVES" and "EXTRA'S. The "MUST HAVES" are those circular aspects that are absolutely required when you want to  include this aspect. In principle, they are therefore always important, regardless of the context or the building's initially envisaged function. The "EXTRAs" are additional requirements that can be included in order to go even further. They push the level of ambition further upwards. Taking into account the specific context and preconditions of the project, it is up to the user to assess which additional requirements can be included.

STAP 4: Adjust ambition leveles per subject

In step 4, after going through the input forms, you get a calculation of the desired ambition levels per subject. Here you also check whether all "MUST HAVES" per theme have been selected. You also review whether your previously set ambition level per subject in step 2 matches the calculated ambition level in step 4. Are there big differences? Then you will have to adjust your overall ambition level (and thus also adjust time and resources accordingly) or adjust the selected requirements (select more or fewer requirements). By doing this exercise, you can check whether you have set realistic ambitions first and can make the necessary adjustments to arrive at a realistic story.


STAP 5: Dashboard of circular ambitions

Step 5 visualises the circular aspects for each sub-theme in the form of a dashboard. Based on this dashboard, you can generate a communication sheet that serves to communicate about the project's circular ambitions. It can be used in the tender, to compare solutions, or to check decisions during the design process. It serves as a guide to communicate with the construction partners involved about the desired circularity in the project.

STAP 6: Check if circular ambitions were achieved

As the project progresses, the extent to which the circular requirements were achieved can be checked. This is done by indicating in tabs 1.a to 4 in the "check" column for each criterion whether it was achieved (put "yes" or "no"). Sometimes there are external factors that determine whether certain things can be implemented or not. To indicate this, space is provided for comments/lessons learned/points for improvement. The results of this evaluation are visualised in the form of a dashboard in the tab "CHECK". This exercise provides an opportunity to reflect on why the result deviates from the ambitions you set forward, in a positive or negative sense. This can help to make better assessments towards the feasibility of ambitions in future projects and helps to capture lessons learned.

"At the Emergis Living lab, there was a strong commitment to valorise the existing situation with an ambition to retain 24% of the existing structure. In the end, this ambition was exceeded by 4% thanks to the preservation of the foundation, concrete floor and a tiled floor"

Calculation method Dashboard

The percentages that can be found on the dashboard do not express how circular a building is, but show the extent to which you want to focus on a certain aspect. The goal is therefore not to achieve 100% on every aspect, but to put forward an ambitious but at the same time realistic percentage for each project and monitor whether it is achieved.

Ambitionlevel expressed in percentages:

percentages thema's dashboard

Design for reuse and recycling

In the calculator "Design for reuse and recycling", however, a simple calculation method was used to visualise and estimate the extent to which the various aspects determining the reuse and recycling potential are taken into account per building component. This methodology is explained further.

As avoiding the use of materials is at the top of the circularity ladder, the calculator first examines whether material-saving optimisations are made or even better, materials are avoided. Bonus points are awarded for this:

  • Materiaal-saving = 2 points
  • Avoiding material use = 20 points = Maximumscore

Next, the extent to which each building component was designed to allow for reuse and recycling in the future is checked for 4 aspects. Depending on the answers, a 4-level scale is used with a score distribution of 0, 1, 3 and 5. Thus, a maximum score of 20 points per building component can be obtained when the reuse and recycling potential is maximised for all aspects.

Finally, the scores per building component are converted into a percentage that represents the ambition level for the entire building. To do this, the scores per building component are combined with the following weighting factors to produce a total percentage. The weighting factors are taken from DGNB New buildings criteria set - version 2018, TEC1.6 / EASE OF RECOVERY AND RECYCLING.  

dashboard radardiagram voorbeeld
Toont een tabel berekening calculator ontwerp voor hergebruik en recyclage
There is the following logic behind these weighting factors: when building components are subject to regular changes (because of their limited technical or functional lifespan), it is all the more important that they were designed for reuse or recycling. Therefore, the floor, internal walls and ceiling have a high weighting factor. The foundation, on the other hand, remains unchanged in most cases and therefore has the lowest weighting factor.