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Circular Life of Buildings: Designing out obsolescence




Buildings are a crucial part of society. We live in buildings and use them as offices, schools, hospitals, etc. We have a different type of building to meet our unique needs. However, the way we build these structures is not sustainable. The way buildings are constructed today is resource extensive where natural minerals are extracted from nature, manufactured into products, and then disposed of. This linear approach leads to significant global emissions and waste generation. 

While global economies are trying to shift to more sustainable ways of living, the building sector continues to be traditional. The transformation is needed on technical, financial, economic, and industrial levels. Technological advancements like prefabrication, standardization of products and design for deconstruction are growing in the field. These tools help close the loop of the materials and products to allow for their continued application. While planning for the future, it is crucial to preserve the existing buildings and slow down resource flow by maintaining existing ones and repairing them when damaged. With the increasing global population, it is inevitable to optimize what we build. Contemporary concepts like a design for longevity allow buildings to be utilized to the best of their technical strength. Designing with flexibility and disassembly in mind makes it easy to recover elements from the building after use instead of demolishing the entire building. These are effective ways to prevent waste generation. Along with technological advancement, the business transformation is needed with innovative business models like take-back schemes and products as a service. When the users can return the components back to the manufacturer, he can assure the reuse of these elements. Most of the circular building projects take more time to construct and cost more than traditional building construction. For stakeholders to abide by these changes, there need to be viable incentives such as rent premiums, tax subsidies, a better yield on investment, etc. 

There is a grave need for collaboration on the building level and amongst other sectors and cities through industrial symbiosis and urban symbiosis. Moving to a circular built environment also implies a transition from a skills perspective. Various stakeholders, be it building owners, labour and workers or asset managers, all need to be trained about how different this novel approach is. Comprehensive knowledge of circular building construction should be made available, providing practical guidance on incorporating different elements of the circular economy into the construction sector. 


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