Applying circular design guidelines

Scheme of circular design guidelines

Applying circular design guidelines

If we want to achieve a circular economy in the construction sector, then buildings need to be designed according to circular design guidelines. In concrete terms, this means that construction materials and products, building components and even entire buildings must always be able to retain their maximum value, or that we must be able to continually bring them back into circulation.

Our learnings from the past offer us important insights for the future. For example, when constructing new buildings, we need to pay the necessary attention to:

  • the building-level design (change-oriented design), with a focus on value retention by incorporating sufficient flexibility and adaptability
  • the component-level design (design for reuse and recycling), with a focus on separability, portability and accessibility, taking into account the different lifespans so that we can remove components from a building with minimal damage.

“In the event of a change of function, the front facade of the KULeuven Living Lab can be rearranged without additional stability works, and both the stair core and intermediate floors are already provided for fire compartmentation.”

KUL Living Lab leefruimte
Veranderingsgericht ontwerp

Change-oriented design

In both renovation and new-build projects, we need to keep in mind that the building is not a static entity that remains forever unchanged. On the contrary, it is a dynamic environment that will continue to evolve as it is influenced by the changing needs of its users as well as new technical developments. In a residential building, for example, the residents will get older or the family composition might change. This requires some specific adjustments to the rooms and entrances. In a non-residential building, for example, this might involve a change in its function. Therefore, at the start of the project we need to not only meet the needs of the current user, but also develop a long-term strategy with some scenarios for the future use of the building. We call this change-oriented design or ‘design for change’.

ontwerp voor hergebruik en recyclage

Design for reuse and recycling

A building consists of materials and products combined into a whole unit. The way in which this is done has a significant impact on the lifespan of the materials and components used and their potential for reuse and recycling. For example, the laying or integration of electrical cables in walls or behind finishing materials leads to a certain production of waste when they need to be replaced or removed. Or opting for spray foam insulation against a concrete structure means that the concrete cannot be recycled in the event of future demolition. If we want to limit the waste a building produces during its entire life cycle, and not just during the construction phase (see also the part on 'waste management and maintenance'), design choices must take into account both the use phase (maintenance, replacements, repairs, renovations) and the end-of-life phase (option to disassemble, reuse, recycle).