Circular Buildings: Not Round…

Over the years we heard a lot about sustainability and the new frontier is “circularity” or maybe more often “circular economy”. Circularity has the concept of R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, refill, repurpose, remove and refuse, and it is the approach to transition towards the sustainable future. What is circularity? With a basic definition, once the product or material is used it goes back to a new life cycle or supply chain. So, buildings have massive materials and systems and how does circularity apply to buildings? Starting from the ideation, and along with design, construction, and operations phases of buildings here are some practices that could be adapted for circular buildings:

Design for Adaptability

Several office buildings are vacant after the pandemic. Adaptive reuse is the practice to convert these buildings to housing or hotel. Designing buildings for the future adaptability is one of the key aspects of circularity.

Design for Maintainability

Integration of operations and maintenance considerations into the design phase early on is critical to increase the longevity and lifespan of a building. It allows quick, safe, easy and effective maintenance practices with minimum downtime.

Design for Disassembly

Similar to the adaptability, the purpose of the disassembly in this concept is to facilitate the future changes and to make provisions for the reuse. Modular and pre-fabricated projects are great examples of design for disassembly.

Material Selection

Selection of non toxic materials with low carbon emissions, high recycling potential and durability is pivotal to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing, material transport, and disposal.

Resource Efficiency

Circular buildings are designed for energy efficiency, incorporating renewable resources, minimizing waste with the life cycle assessment approach.

Community Engagement

Incorporating and fostering the voice of local community in design and construction phases with creating a sense of ownership and belonging brings social cohesion and empowerment.


LEED, WELL, Living Building Challenge, BREEAM, Green Globes, NGBS are examples of building certifications that promote the sustainable and circular practices in buildings.

Deconstruction and Salvage

Circularity involves deconstructing the building in a way that maximizes the recovery of materials for reuse or recycling at the end of its lifecycle. Salvaging components and materials allows for their reintroduction into the life cycle.

How About Some Strategies in the Operations Phase of Buildings?

  • Performing an energy audit and recommissioning to explore the potential systems to renovate.
  • Monitoring equipment performance with sensors, smart meters and IoT.
  • Increasing predictive maintenance strategies to prevent reactive maintenance and downtime.
  • Finding alternative ways for renovation and refurbishment projects.
  • Preferring products with eco labels, certifications, and recycled options.
  • Setting up a robust recycling program with waste tracking system.
  • Identifying KPIs to measure and promote the circular practices.
  • Exploring incentives for tax breaks, low-interest loans, grants to implement circular practices.
  • and more…

    Probably at the beginning of this list we need to include “explaining the concept of circularity and its short term & long term benefits to promote it as an organizational culture”. Starting with small steps and enhancing these efforts in the organizational level is the key to implement circular practices in buildings and workplace.

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    Want to Learn More?

    Here are some available tools and resources to explore:

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    Learn more about our Author: Dr. Deniz Besiktepe is a trained architect and currently an assistant professor at the Purdue University School of Construction Management Technology (SCMT). She holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering and Management from Colorado State University. She has 13 years of industry experience in construction and facilities management areas prior to joining academia. She is the recipient of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Foundation Academic Contributor of the Year Award 2022 and currently serves on the IFMA Foundation’s scholarship and fundraiser committees. Dr. Besiktepe’s FM research focuses on building maintenance, condition assessment, decision-making models, fuzzy applications, and implementing data-driven techniques in the FM area. In addition, she is currently teaching a graduate-level facilities management course at Purdue SCMT.

    *Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.