On the occasion of the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), taking place on 4-5 June in Helsinki, the Architects' Council of Europe (ACE) publishes a Statement highlighting the importance of design to achieve more circularity in the construction and buildings sector, as well the solutions that architecture can bring.
Like many other sectors, the construction and building sectors operate largely within a linear economy model of “take, make and waste”, assuming that resources are abundant and that we can dispose of them without consequences. Yet, there is growing awareness of the finite nature of natural resources and fragility of our environment, and thereby of the urgent need to develop more sustainable and regenerative economic models.
Action must be taken urgently to apply circular economy principles in these sectors, which have huge potential in terms of resource savings and waste reduction. Architecture has a crucial role to play here as many decisions taken during the design phase have long-lasting consequences on the environmental performance of a building.
Developing circular economy principles in the built environment is fundamentally about changing the way we design our buildings to ensure that they can be operated, maintained, repaired, re-used or adapted to new needs, while optimising resource value and generating as little waste as possible.
The design phase constitutes the right moment for bringing together all stakeholders of a project to discuss circular economy challenges and agree on the best strategies to create the greatest possible value out of minimum resources for the longest possible time. If high-quality architecture can create significant values, conversely, ill-conceived buildings can cause considerable waste and costs, both in the short term and for future generations.
Designing and building in a circular manner requires us to acknowledge that a building is above all a support for life. Beyond optimising the use of resources for their own stake, it is essential to seek to preserve and enhance the economic, social, environmental and cultural values that a place embodies for the end-users, so that it can be used for the longest possible time.
The Statement presents different architectural solutions promoting circularity, focusing on preserving and enhancing the value of resources. It also puts forward some policy recommendations to support the architectural approach to circularity.
Read the Statement on the ACE website