While circular economy is often discussed in relation to the architectural object through the lens of material recycling, design for disassembly, and material passports, the framework is most fully enacted at the neighbourhood and city scale. Whether it is visions of circular communities that hint at some level of self-sufficiency or policies set in motion by cities, urban-scale projects exemplify the guiding principles of the circular economy, providing a glimpse into what a fully-fledged version of it might look like. The following explores the strategies used in circular urban environments, from architecture and construction materials to energy production, waste management and food production, as well as the processes and operations that govern these designs, providing insights into the conditions that inform circularity.
Recycling: The Latest Architecture and News
It is believed that copper was the first metal to be found by men and used in the manufacture of tools and weapons. This occurred in the last period of prehistory, more than 10,000 years ago, in the so-called Metal Age, when groups, until then nomadic, started to become sedentary, developing agriculture and starting the first urban settlements. Copper has since been used in diverse ways. Used for decorative objects, jewelry, automotive parts, electrical systems, and even for dental amalgams, the material has had huge demand. In architecture, copper coatings are greatly appreciated for their aesthetics and durability. But a factor worth mentioning is that copper can be recycled infinitely, practically without losing its properties.
The roof of Euston Station in London is the large-scale architectural setting for the virtual application of the comprehensive Metaplas system, created by students from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. As part of an investigation carried out in Research Cluster 8 (RC8) of the Master's program in Architectural Design, students developed a 3D printed multimaterial system from biodegradable and recyclable thermoplastics. Transforming a series of flat panels into complex three-dimensional forms, students created a structural system with geometric folds that allows for passive control of the lighting of interior spaces.
The Shing Mun River in Sha Tin, a residential town in Hong Kong, has struggled with plastic waste pollution for years. Household waste that is not properly recycled will either end up in landfills or floating in the river. In 2018 almost 17 million plastic items, or 40,000 items daily, were found to be drained into the ocean via the Shing Mun River, mostly being food packaging, cutleries, and household plastic bottles. This quantity of plastic pollution in the river and surrounding environment could eventually jeopardize the natural ecosystem irreversibly.
Students at the School of Engineering, RMIT University recently published a study experimenting with a new form of waste management and recycling. As they note in their research, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded single waste item in the world, with an estimated 5.7 trillion having been consumed around the globe in 2016. However, the materials in cigarette butts—particularly their cellulose acetate filters—can be extremely harmful to the environment due to poor biodegradability. The RMIT study builds on a previous research study by Mohajerani et. al (2016) that experimented with adding discarded cigarette butts to clay bricks for architectural use. In their research, the RMIT students found that such a measure would reduce the energy consumption of the brick production process and lower the thermal conductivity of the bricks, but that other issues including bacterial contamination would have to be addressed prior to successful implementation. Below, we explore this research in more detail, investigating its relevance to the architecture industry and imagining possible futures of application.
Newly built houses, with their sizable carbon footprints, don’t just contribute to climate change. For many Americans, they’re also too expensive—a bitter irony in cities rife with vacant buildings and record evictions.
Given the urgency of both issues, projects that retrofit livable housing into existing low-carbon shells (the initial embodied carbon was spent long ago) might be worth a closer look. We searched for them and came across a handful that promise a cure for housing insecurity and excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
According to a survey by the Brazilian Association for Recycling of Construction and Demolition Waste (ABRECON), there has been an increase in the recycling of construction and demolition waste (C&D) in Brazil in recent years. According to the 2015 report, 21% of the total C&D was recycled in the country that year, while in 2013 the rate was 19%.
The outlook is promising but not yet ideal, and the growth of recycled C&D materials is still considered small. In Brazil, construction waste can represent between 50% and 70% of the total municipal solid waste. This means, we still need to advocate for a more common practice of material recycling and reuse in architecture, especially in Brazil.
As levels of pollutant emissions have increased over the years, awareness has also grown regarding actions that can be taken to minimize the damage caused to the planet. As a way to promote waste reduction or prevention, the 3 R's rule is created: reduce, reuse and recycle. These actions, together with sustainable consumption standards, have been promoted as a means to protect natural resources and minimize waste.
With the aim of supporting architects to become active agents of sustainable design, this week we present a selection of facades that incorporate different recycled materials. Beyond the typical uses of plastic and glass, in this article, you will find innovative materials such as mattress springs, ice cream containers, plastic chairs, and recycled waste from agricultural and industrial products. A look at 21 remarkable projects using recycled materials to create an attractive facade.
The use of brick plays a very important role in the architectural history of the United Kingdom. Construction techniques that involve brick and stone have been in constant progress. In fact, brick production improved over time, making the material the most popular one in the construction industry. From the 18th century onwards, brickwork was predominantly used in domestic and industrial architecture, but later on, it was introduced to the structure of warehouses and factories, as well as other various forms of infrastructure.
While many of these buildings are still operating to this day, it comes as no surprise. Refurbishment and reuse are highly recommended techniques, and in many cases, the only methods to maintain densely populated European cities. Therefore, the challenge lays in reusing these buildings and recycling the materials available, always trying to retain as much of the original structure as possible.
Whether you're looking for an upgrade or to replace broken pieces for floors or walls, tiles are always an effective and readily available option for any project that you have in mind. With their relatively low production cost, tiles are rarely reused or recycled and, if they are, it's usually for their original function.
Whether we like it or not, every architect is a recycler.
The phrase “Swamp Yankee” is neither a diss nor a stereotype. Swamp Yankees lived in pre-20th-century New England. They were those poor folk who could only afford to live near water – where disease, vermin and bad weather regularly wrecked lives. Those folk never threw anything out that could be reused (someday). They bartered and they salvaged as a way of life. There was never waste (“waste not, want not”). Swamp Yankees made recycling a lifestyle. Sustainability was not a Green choice – it was the way they survived.
I am a Swamp Yankee Architect.
“Out with the old and in with the new,”....or so they say. In the United States, a cloud of dust and debris paired with a wrecking ball and bulldozer tends to represent signs of forward progress, innovation, economic activity, and the hope for a better future through architectural design.