Building Better - Less - Different: Circular Construction and Circular Economy

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LessBetter Different



Introduction by Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel

Principles of

Introduction by Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel

Principles of a Circular

Introduction by Ken Webster


Better – Efficiency in the Construction Industry Introduction to Circular Construction by Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel

The Case for Deconstruction How Cities Can Stop Wasting Buildings

Article by Gretchen Worth, Felix Heisel, Anthea Fernandes, Jennifer S. Minner and Christine O’Malley

Building Capacity and Knowledge in the Local Economy

The Catherine Commons Deconstruction Project Case study by Felix Heisel and Allexxus Farley-Thomas

New Buildings from Old Case Study by Kerstin Müller

Deconstruction of Place, Acceleration of Waste A Preservationist's Warning on the Challenges and Pitfalls of the Urban Mine Commentary by Andrew Roblee and Jennifer S. Minner

Better – Moving towards Eco-efficiency

Introduction to Circular Economy by Mark Milstein

Reuse Infrastructure An Essential Foundation of the Circular Economy Article by Diane Cohen and Robin Elliott

Deconstruction Policy in Portland, Oregon Article by Shawn Wood


Less – Sufficiency as Innovation

Introduction to Circular Construction by Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel

Strength Through Geometry and Material Effectiveness Article by Philippe Block

Less – Moving towards Eco-effectiveness

Introduction to Circular Economy by Mark Milstein

The Economy of Urban Mining The Korbach City Hall Model Project Article by Anja Rosen

Carbon Fees and Dividends, and a Circular Construction Industry Article by Ken Webster

Towards a More Responsible Society with the Polluter Pays Principle Commentary by Annette Hillebrandt

– The Importance of a Holistic Approach
Circular Construction
7 10 22 24 30 32 38 44 52 55 56 62 70 72 79 80 92 96


Different – Consistency as

Introduction to Circular Construction by Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel

Ecology Must Have Priority! Commentary by Annette Hillebrandt

The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design Acting at the Intersection of Carbon, Health and Equity Case Study by Joshua R. Gassman, RA

Triodos Bank Circular Wooden Cathedral Case Study by RAU Architects

Concular The Digitisation of Materials in Buildings Case Study by Dominik Campanella

Materials Passports Enabling Closed Material Loops Case Study by Sabine Rau-Oberhuber

The Urban Village Project Case Study by EFFEKT

Different – Moving towards Disruptive

Introduction to Circular Economy by Mark Milstein

Cooling as a Service (CAAS) The Case of Kaer Case Study by Dave Mackerness

A Circular Approach in Flooring The Case of Interface Case Study by Erin Meezan

Be Careful What You Wish For Commentary by Ken Webster

The Urban Mining and Recycling (UMAR) Unit

Case Study by Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel





Index of Firms, Institutions



a Principle
the Autors
of Persons
and Initiatives
of Projects, Products and Publications
100 102 104 108 114 118 122 129 130 134 138 142 155 155 157 158 158 159 160 Better + Less + Different

In 2019, the European Union outlined its ambitious Green Deal to be the first continent to become climate neutral by 2050. It requires that we reduce net emissions of green house gases to zero by 2050. Not only that: it also stipulates that Europe must transi tion to a functioning circular economy by 2050 and thus establish a statutory basis for a metabolic approach to thinking about physical goods and commodities, their reuse, recycling and natural composting. While sustainability is to become the guiding principle of social action and economic activity, the ways and means by which we will achieve this are far from clear. As a holistic praxis, sustainability must combine technical and material as well as social, economic, ecological and also ethical strategies, which have multiple complex interactions and all too often also conflicting goals and priorities. In no other field can these be better observed, addressed and influenced than in architecture and building, because in the organisation, design and construction of the built environment we encounter the complexities of sustainable action including all its various experiences, problems and potential solutions. At the same time, sustainable action cannot only look forward towards a – hopefully – better future but must also address the enormous existing stock built long before the guidelines and targets of the Green Deal. The need to adapt and convert this stock is a formidable but necessary task, given that the building sector is responsible for 50 % of primary raw material consumption globally and at least 40 % of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The series of publications, of which this is the first issue, aims to help guide us along this path and examines the central topics of the process and its interactions and dependencies from both a scientific and practical perspective. Each volume of Building Better – Less – Different details two fundamental areas of sustainability and explores their respective dynamics and interactions. After introductory overviews, each book presents established methods and current developments along with analyses of potential conflict points and relevant international case studies. The sustainability criteria of efficiency (“better”), sufficiency (“less”) and consistency (“different”) form the framework for each book. Together, the volumes will provide a systematic and up-to-date compendium of sustainable building.

This first volume presents concepts, methods and examples of circularity in construc tion and the economy. Here, the focus is on the question of resources: where will raw materials for future construction activity come from, given the increasing bottlenecks in supplies and depleting reserves? What role will the bio-economy play? Which methods and processes do we need to trial, implement and politically establish for us to achieve the goals of a circular economy? Urban mining and circular construction are two approaches to the challenges that architecture and urban design are facing, using techniques such as mono-material constructions and design for disassembly, and tools such as materials passports and databases. The circular economy is not solely about recycling but also encompasses a wide range of strategies from local community projects to new ownership and service models and steering mechanisms such as carbon fees and dividends. We must learn to understand the respective dynamics and interdependencies to avoid the pitfalls of blinkered silo thinking.

This book rises to this challenge by providing multiple ways of linking interrelated topics to one another. As such, it is more than just a linear sequence of articles, case studies and commentaries; it is also a field of relationships defined by the categories “better”, “less” and “different” as well as construction and economy. A corresponding visual table of the contents (see p. 9) aims to encourage a variety of ways of accessing the topics within. Further references at the end of each contribution help readers broaden their perspective and establish links between the different subject areas. After all, each area can learn from one another: how can we apply and incorporate economic models and ideas from the energy and resources sector to the construction industry, and vice versa? As such, a building is not just an architectural or constructional challenge but also a vehicle for adopting and discussing relevant economic models and contexts. For this, we must learn to work and act in cycles within a metabolic economic model.


6 7

Accordingly, the various ⬤ introductions, ⬤ articles, ⬤ ⬤ case studies and ⬤ commentaries in this book highlight – and introduce – the inherent relationships within this field to further vital discourse on implementing and establishing circular models. The third decade of the 21st century will be crucial to whether we succeed in finding ways to live and act consistently, i.e., in harmony with the environment and its natural cycles and processes. Only then will we be able to dispense with the man-conceived and man-made distinction between the built and natural environment, so that we may exist together in dignity on this planet without exploiting one or the other.

Principles of Circular Construction p. 22

Better –Efficiency in the Construction Industry p. 30

Sustainability –The Importance of a Holistic Approach p. 10

Better –Moving towards Eco-efficiency p. 54

Principles of a Circular Economy p. 24

The Case for Deconstruction p. 32

Deconstruction of Place, Acceleration of Waste p. 52

New Buildings from Old p. 44

Less –Sufficiency as Innovation p. 70

Strength Through Geometry and Material Effectiveness p. 72

Triodos Bank p. 108

Different –Consistency as a Principle p. 100

Kendeda Building p. 104

Concular p. 114

The Urban Village Project p. 122

Building Capacity and Knowledge in the Local Economy p. 38

Deconstruction Policy in Portland, Oregon p. 62

Carbon Fees and Dividends, and a Circular Construction Industry p. 92

Less –Moving towards Eco-effectiveness p. 78

Towards a More Responsible Society with the Polluter Pays Principle p. 96

The Economy of Urban Mining p. 80

Ecology Must Have Priority! p. 102

Different – Moving towards Disruptive Innovation p. 128

Cooling as a Service (CAAS) p. 130

A Circular Approach in Flooring p. 134

Reuse Infrastructure p. 56 Materials Passports p. 118

Be Careful What You Wish For p. 138

The Urban Mining and Recycling (UMAR) Unit p. 142

Better Introduction Circular Construction Circular Economy Less Different 8 9



To discuss the principle of sustainability, it can help to first consider the opposite: a situation that we would describe and classify as “unsustainable” so that we may derive principles and methods of sustainable action from it. A particularly striking example of unsus tainable behaviour is the fate of Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean and the events long ago that led to its demise. The island was first discovered by an exploration party on behalf of the Dutch West India Company under the command of Admiral Jacob Roggeveen on 5 April 1722 – an Easter Sunday, which explains its modern European name (Paasch Eyland). The crew of the three-ship expedition, which was actually searching for “Terra Australis”, was astonished and shocked by the living conditions of the few remaining people on the island. Many housed in caves, and the canoes the natives used to paddle to meet them were small, leaky and barely seaworthy. The island was dry and scorched by the sun, with mostly grasses and shrubs as vegetation and no plant higher than two metres. On a visit in 1774, Captain James Cook wrote in his logbook: “Nature has been exceedingly sparing of her favours to this spot.”1

That this cannot have always been the case was evidenced by the large rectangular stone ceremonial platforms (ahu) and huge stone statues (moai) scattered across the island, which were an impressive and imposing sight, then as now. There are a total of 887 statues, the tallest of which is 21 m high and weighs 270 tonnes (metric tons). These upright abstract male figures with large heads but no legs or arms were probably created as ancestral representations and direct their gaze towards the interior of the island, towards their descendants. The question was: how could these statues have been created, moved into place and erected when there were no trees for making scaffolding with and not enough vegetation for making ropes?

More recent findings suggest that the island was originally settled as early as the 9th century AD by travellers from other Polynesian Islands to the west. At that time, the settlers brought plants and domestic animals from their homeland, including the sweet potato, yam, taro, banana, sugar cane and chicken. In addition, the inhabitants’ diet comprised dolphins, mussels and land and sea birds, which had thrived due to a lack of natural predators. Well provided for by agriculture, small animal husbandry, fishing and bird catching, the population grew steadily into a sizeable society of ten tribes spread across the island. Although one of the driest (a product of its predominantly flat geography), windiest and coolest of all the Polynesian islands, it was originally fully covered by a mixed forest with many species (21 such species have been identified from charcoal remains). Of these, the most impressive species was certainly the genus Jubaea. This Easter Island palm could grow to a trunk diameter of 2 m and was also the largest species of palm tree on the Polynesian Islands at that time. It is estimated that the island was originally home to some 10 million palm trees and other tree species covering an area of about 172 km².

The trunks of the trees and their fibres would therefore have provided the raw mater ials for constructing the statues, and it is probable that significant quantities of the wood were used to build the cultural-religious representations. However, the palms and other tree species were also an important resource for the lives of the people, for example for building shelters and boats, and as a source of sweet sap and firewood. From the 13th century onwards, however, deforestation advanced considerably for several reasons. The island’s geographical location and climate did not provide conditions conducive to rapid reforestation and the problem was compounded by rats that had arrived with the settlers. Without natural predators, they were able to multiply rapidly and feed on the shoots of the palm trees, as bite marks on palm nuts have shown. But it was mainly the islanders themselves who were responsible for the demise of their own livelihood through the progressive over exploitation of natural resources.

The dry and windy climate soon caused erosion of the deforested areas. Although the inhabitants adopted measures to try and protect the land by building stone walls or laying so-called lithic mulching (placing stones on exposed soil to trap moisture, act as mineral fertiliser and compensate for diurnal temperature fluctuations), they were increasingly

1 James Cook, A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World, Volume 1 (1777). Tredition Classics, 2011.

forced to abandon their farmland and settlements. Without larger trees, they were unable to build larger canoes for hunting dolphins out at sea. Only the rather meagre stocks of smaller fish species near the shore remained as a source of food. As the forests disappeared and the rats multiplied, safe habitats for land and sea birds disappeared resulting in the gradual loss of a further source of food. As wood reserves for firewood, for building dwellings and boats and for providing nourishment depleted, the population probably retreated more and more to the stone caves in the centre of the island. Between the 17th century and the arrival of the first Europeans, social coexistence gradually broke down, resulting in violent conflicts and ultimately also cannibalism. With the conflicts came a loss in the belief in the protec tive powers of the ancestors, and rival groups began toppling each other’s stone statues. While it is estimated that up to 15,000 or more people lived on the island in the 16th and 17th centuries, by the end of the 18th century there were just 2,000 inhabitants, and in the middle of the 19th century probably only several hundred left, mainly also due to political reasons (e.g., deportation as forced labourers) and diseases introduced by outsiders.

This theory of Easter Island’s collapse as a consequence of ecological overexploitation was put forward by Jared Diamond in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.2 It is particularly distressing because the remote location in the middle of the Pacific and the impossibility of the inhabitants to interact with other people paints a picture of complete isolation and hopelessness. But there are also doubts about the complete ecological demise of the island. The ecosystem researcher Hans-Rudolf Bork of the Univer sity of Kiel does not assume a complete collapse of the food supply due to deforestation, arguing that the application of stone mulching prevented a complete breakdown. And yet, as with a laboratory experiment, excluding other influencing variables and parameters, a systemic view can be described and evaluated.

Were the island’s inhabitants particularly ruthless in the way they exploited their natural environment? There is no reason to presume that. It is more likely that they behaved just as their ancestors had done in the centuries before them. The narrow boundaries, the insular geographic situation and specific climatic conditions were key reasons why it was not possible to sustainably replenish the resources they had increasingly consumed. And, as with our own planet, there was no exchange with outside systems that might have been able to compensate for the deficit. Today, the island, which now belongs to Chile, numbers some 8,000 inhabitants, most of whom live from tourism and supplies imported from other areas of the Pacific region. Even today, the island is largely without significant vegetation – the consequences of the disaster are still visible.


What would have been a more sustainable approach on Easter Island? Did the inhabit ants understand the consequences of their actions for their livelihood? Surprisingly, around the same time as the deforestation of Easter Island began, there were similar examples of unreflected action in many regions of the world, for example in the German Erzgebirge, the Ore Mountains. Here, the motivation was profit maximisation for silver and ore mining. While mining for metals had been common since the Middle Ages, the practice of “fire-setting” produced greater yields. Large wood fires were lit in cavities to induce stress cracks in the rock and often the heated rock was cooled with water to accelerate the effect. Wooden wedges were driven into the cracks and doused with water to cause them to swell. Both these practices required vast quantities of wood, which was sourced from the surrounding forests. The more successful the mine, the greater the degree of logging of the natural environment. At that time, a certain Hans Carl von Carlowitz (actually Johann “Hannß” Carl von Carlowitz) was the Royal Polish and electoral Saxon Chamberlain and Mountain Councillor, as well as chief mining administrator of the Ore Mountains. The Carlowitz family, a long-standing aristocratic family in Saxony, owned and managed large areas of forest in the region. Carlowitz realised that once the forest was gone there would be nothing left to manage, and that the only way to ensure their own ongoing financial security, as well as that of the mining community in the Ore Mountains, was to protect the forests – especially as

2 Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed New York and London: Viking Penguin, 2005.

10 11

3 Hanns Carl von Carlowitz, Sylvicul tura Oeconomica oder haußwirthliche Nachricht und Naturmäßige Anwei sung zur Wilden Baum-Zucht, ed. Nor bert Kessel. Reprint of the first edition from 1713. Leipzig: J. F. Braun, 2011.

4 Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

there were no rules or laws governing forestry at the time. In 1713, only a few years before the arrival of the Europeans on Easter Island, he wrote a treatise entitled Sylvicultura oeconomica oder haußwirthliche Nachricht und Naturmäßige Anweisung zur wilden Baum-Zucht [Sylvicultura oeconomica – Forest Economy or Guide to Tree Cultivation Conforming with Nature].3 In it he describes in detail the connection between the valuable natural raw material and the desire for profit maximisation. Today, one would speak of an energy crisis caused by the unchecked felling of woodland to supply a rapidly growing population. And so, he declared: “For this reason, the greatest art ⁄ science ⁄ labour and management of our lands will be based on how such conservation and cultivation of wood can be arranged so as to make possible a continuous, steady and sustaining use, as this is an indispensable necessity, without which the country cannot maintain its being.” Although the expression “sustaining use” occurs only once in the 432-page treatise, the Sylvicultura oeconomica is considered the origin of – at least the European – terminology and awareness of sustainability.

The Ore Mountains was not the only region to be affected by deforestation. Other areas, such as the Black Forest, experienced a similar period of persistent unsustainable use in the late 18th century, though there it was not a consequence of silver and ore mining but instead the result of the forest grazing of livestock. While the intention was that they would feed on beechnuts and acorns, the animals also ate most of the young tree shoots, preventing the natural regeneration of the forest (much as the rats had done on Easter Island). In addition, the felling of large trees for timber rafting down the Rhine to the Netherlands had become a profitable business. Sturdy timber was highly prized for building foundations for dikes and settlements in the soft marshland of the Netherlands and accord ingly was exported in large quantities from the Black Forest and Upper Rhine Graben. The Kinzigtal raftsmen were famed for their skill and craftsmanship in binding and steering exceedingly long rafts down the Rhine. But such was their avarice that wood became so scarce in the Black Forest towards the end of the 18th century that in some places fence posts, stairs, carts and other wooden objects had to be burned to ensure the inhabitants’ survival over winter. The ensuing hardship led to the realisation that the natural resource of the forest had to be protected and preserved and that felling must be limited to an extent that permitted the forest to regrow naturally. By then, however, the majority of the Black Forest had already been cleared and some bare, eroded mountaintops one sees today bear silent testimony to the tragedy of bygone times.

Laws were subsequently passed regulating the amount of felling and prohibiting forest grazing and fire setting in forests, and most of these still apply today. Ironically, what saved the Black Forest was not primarily the realisation of the need for sustainability but a technical advancement that would become a new problem for later generations: the invention of the steam engine and the advent of the Industrial Revolution caused wood to be displaced by coal as the primary source of energy – a development that soon spread the world over and is now a global challenge.

The examples discussed here show that we must understand the links and interdependencies between economic goals and prevailing ecological, social and societal conditions, both locally as well as for the planet as a whole. Only then can we take sustainable action that does not lead to the destruction of our own livelihood.


In 1962, the US-American biologist Rachel Carson published the book Silent Spring,4 which today is regarded as marking the beginning of a socially driven environmental movement. It was one of the first non-fiction books written for a broad audience to make clear the connections between the release of toxic substances such as DDT and other pesticides and herbicides into the environment and its consequences for animals and humans within the food chain. To give the topic a sense of specific relatability, she astutely chose to set it in a fictional small town in America. The book links the principle of ecological balance with the human and social perspective, right down to the premature death of the bald eagle, which as the heraldic animal of the USA was no doubt chosen to represent American Society, though

Carson only mentions this in passing. And so it transpired that this bird of prey went on to become the symbol of the fight against DDT in the years that followed. Carson’s book therefore adds a third dimension to the topic of sustainability alongside the ecological (Easter Island) and the economic (Carlowitz): the ethical responsibility of a socially oriented society.

These three dimensions are seen to this day as the three primary pillars of sustainability: ecology, economy and sociology. Like the principle of communicating vessels, a balance needs to be found between these three aspects and their interactions. The process of weighing these up against each other, and the inevitable prioritisation this entails, has a dynamic socio-political dimension, and Rachel Carson’s book helped bring about a broad social awareness of this collective responsibility.

In 1972, Harrison Schmitt, an astronaut on the Apollo 17 mission, took what is still one of the most iconic photographs in the world: Blue Marble, as it is titled (the official designation is AS17-148-22727), shows a view of the Earth from 45,000 km away, perfectly illuminated by the sun behind the photographer. It depicts the earth against a background of black nothingness, isolated, frail and vulnerable, and we see just how thin, fragile and ephemeral the atmosphere around the Earth is. As an impression of an organism in need of protection, it evoked a sense of collective unity, and since then the image has been printed on countless T-shirts, flags and other items and has become a symbol of the emerging environmental protection and sustainability movement. It is frightening to think what could happen to a population of billions of people on this one planet if we are not able to learn from the examples of the past and adapt our behaviour to the situation at hand and act accordingly.


A few years earlier, in 1968, two other protagonists of this movement, the Italian indus trialist Aurelio Peccei, then a member of the boards of Fiat and Olivetti, and the Scotsman Alexander King, then Director of Science, Technology and Education at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), organised a conference to try and raise awareness of the future of humanity against the background of global population growth, emerging reports of resource depletion and the need to engender a sense of ecological responsibility towards the planet. To the organisers’ dismay, however, the confer ence at the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome failed to bring about the hoped-for awakening of a global awareness of the issues. Only many years later did this finally come about under the auspices of the United Nations.

Six of the attendees – Erich Jantsch, Alexander King, Max Kohnstamm, Aurelio Peccei, Jean Saint-Geours and Hugo Thiemann – did, however, agree to work together to pursue the issues further as a collective that they called the “Club of Rome”. Dennis L. Meadows, a computer scientist at MIT, later recalled: “It was a circle of intellectuals, scientists, industrialists and other public figures […]. In 1970, the club met for its first official annual meeting in Switzerland. The members debated at length, including how they could conduct research on the future of the world. One of the members had a concrete idea. That was Jay Forrester, a professor at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology […] who was already famous at the time. He suggested that his computer models could help simulate the future development of world population, industrialisation and resource consumption. […] I was already at MIT at that time and put forward a proposal on how to improve Forrester’s models using the computer language Dynamo in such a way that you could develop a so-called ‘world model’ from them. The idea was to simulate the systemic behaviour of the Earth as an economic model according to different scenarios. And to see how long the world’s resources would last. […] Computer programmes that could simulate so-called systems, i.e. mutual dependencies between different variables, was one of MIT’s major achievements at the time.”5 Taking up this sugges tion, the Club of Rome commissioned a group of scientists to conduct a study based on Jay Forrester’s preliminary work and make an estimate of how long the system Earth could remain viable – assuming global population growth and increasing economic activity, while also taking into account the limited availability of natural reserves and their increasing exploitation.

5 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “Dennis Meadows im Gespräch: ‘Wir haben die Welt nicht ger ettet’”, wirtschaft/dennis-meadows-imgespraech-wir-haben-die-welt-nichtgerettet-11671491.html, published 3 March 2020 (accessed 3 January 2022).

12 13


Sustainability is often described as the holistic synergy of social, economic and environmental concerns. The intersection of and interaction between these individual aspects allow us to better understand their in terdependencies and identify corresponding objectives. The isolated consideration or pre dominant emphasis of a single aspect results in an imbalance in the system.

A liveable world

An equitable world


Sustainable Development

A viable world


Industrial output



Population Food

In 1972, the book The Limits to Growth6 was published, which presented the results of these simulations to the public. Its authors were Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III, representing a team of 17 scientists. The findings of the study were devastating: if global society fails to make more sustainable use of natural resources and does not radically reduce its levels of consumption, the study predicted that the global system of the earth would collapse in the first half of the 21st century. The causes cited included the pollution of the environment through solid and gaseous emissions, the depletion of natural resources (or an end to their viable extraction) and a decreasing productivity of agricultural land, which together with the pollution of natural flora and fauna ecosystems would lead to a decrease in food supply. This would, in turn, lead to a steep decline of the birth rate, the aging of society and, above all, a sharp decrease in industrial production and services. Given the unthinkable outlook it predicted, the book came in for heavy criticism. Several attempts were made to recalculate the models with updated data and better software and hardware, most notably in 19927 and in 2004,8 but the overall results remained unchanged. For the authors and initiators, it was important to show the interdependencies of the individual systems and the influencing variables. As such, their work represents a continuation of the earlier approaches by Carl von Carlowitz and Rachel Carson, albeit at a much higher level of complexity.


During the 1970s and 1980s, a strong global social movement emerged that aimed to make sustainability issues a central concern of politics. Various initiatives were formed, partly driven by anti-war and peace campaigners or other green and alternative groups who opposed the civil and military use of nuclear power and the exploitation of natural resources. In 1980, Germany’s first green party was founded in Karlsruhe, which from then on advanced this agenda, initially at a municipal level, and later in government. Since then, these issues have gained broad support in society. Internationally, similar calls for a responsible and sustainable use of resources grew increasingly vocal and in 1983, the United Nations established the World Commission on Environment and Development,9 based in Geneva, as an independent expert commission. It was tasked with developing a study on how the global community could establish long-term environmental strategies for sustainable development while reconciling these with economic and social aspects. When it was founded, it comprised 19 members from 18 nations and was chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Minister of the Environment and then Prime Minister of Norway.

2 State of the World: In The Limits to Growth, published in 1972, scientists modelled how long the planet can maintain various existing systems before increasing imbalances will inevitably result in radical shifts in the world order.

Based on: Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III, The Limits to Growth; A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe Books, 1972.

6 Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III, The Limits to Growth; A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe Books, 1972.

7 Donella H. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and Dennis L. Meadows, Be yond the Limits. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1992.

8 Donella H. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and Dennis L. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004.

9 World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).

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10 World Commission on Environ ment and Development, Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Chapter 2, §1.

11 Ibid., Chapter 2, Section I §15.

12 The Natural Step Germany, approach/ (accessed 5 January 2022).

13 Ibid.

14 Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, Our Ecological Footprint. Re ducing Human Impact on the Earth Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1996.

Its first report was published in 1987 and provided a concise definition of sustainability that is still widely acknowledged today: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”10 – a simple, succinct but also unequivocal description of the responsibility we all bear, individually and collectively. Anticipating that professional circles would not find this adequate, the report offered a second, more detailed definition: “In essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development; and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.”11 This second definition adds several noteworthy aspects: Firstly, the report recognises that sustainability is a dynamic system that is constantly being renegotiated, and secondly, it expands the framework of the communicating vessels system to include not just the three aforementioned pillars of ecology, economy and sociology but also the concepts of technology and politics (institutions) and explicitly addresses the question of resources.


However, even this second definition was not scientific enough for some experts. In 1989, Swedish cancer researcher Karl-Henrik Robèrt and a group of 50 scientists formulated a more far-reaching approach that draws on the laws of thermodynamics: “The Earth’s biosphere is a system open to energy, which enters the atmosphere in the form of sunlight, generates winds and ocean currents and partially leaves as heat radiation. The Earth’s biosphere is a relatively closed system in terms of matter, due to gravity as well as slow geological processes that put and keep minerals, metals and fossil fuels underground.”12 Within the biosphere there are established cycles that form the basis for life on earth and ensure its ongoing survival. For example, plants produce oxygen and food through photosynthesis, which humans and animals absorb, producing carbon dioxide and natural fertilisers (from excretions and composted organic material) that promote plant growth. The biosphere is also dependent on the earth’s crust, the lithosphere. Materials enter the biosphere, for example through volcanic eruptions, which with the help of biosynthesis are transformed into other material compositions. Similarly, materials also enter the lithosphere from the biosphere through mineralisation or sedimentation. “These natural processes have evolved over billions of years. Humans are an adaptive, self-organising social species with fundamental needs to be fulfilled. […] Humans depend on each other and on these systems to sustain them. The challenge is that these natural and social systems are being influenced more and more by humans, up to a point where we are degrading these systems on a global scale. In a nutshell, the root causes of unsustainability are: 1) Extraction of a relatively large flow of materials from the earth’s crust. 2) Introduction and concentration of persistent chemical compounds foreign to nature. 3) Physical inhibition of nature’s ability to run cycles. And 4) Allowing the existence of obstacles to people’s health, influence, competence, impar tiality or meaning-making.”13

Following these principles, and by preventing and opposing these four causes, Robèrt, together with public institutions, private companies, government bodies and environmental associations in Sweden, went on to design a framework of sustainable development, which was made available to all schools in Sweden and is used as a teaching aid to this day. By its own account, it has greatly influenced the country’s agricultural, energy and forestry policies. Generally speaking, this predominantly scientific approach aims to lend greater consist ency to our actions within the existing natural cycles, which must be protected at all costs.


In 1997, Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees published the book Our Ecological Foot print. Reducing Human Impact on the Earth.14 In it, they describe a systematic attempt to quantify the unsustainable behaviour of humankind and present a tool that any individual, community or country can use as a basis for comparison. The approach measures patterns


Biosphere Entirety of living organisms


of human consumption in terms of the amount of land required to supply that demand and uses them as a means of conceptually visualising environmental consumption at global, national, regional and individual levels. Wackernagel and Rees include the consumption of both land and sea areas as well as the waste resulting from the prevailing linear economic model. The consumption of land and water is differentiated into areas used for energy production, as built-up area, as cropland, grazing land and forest land, as marine areas and for depositing waste. The ecological footprint, as they called this unit of measurement, made it possible to calculate per capita consumption and compare it against the corresponding ecological productivity – or biocapacity – of the natural environment.

It goes without saying that the more a population grows, the more land it consumes. With this tool, however, it becomes possible to calculate whether different kinds of indi viduals or societies consume more or less space. And not only that: it is also possible to calculate the point in time at which human consumption exceeds the biocapacity of the entire planet. Wackernagel is now founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, an organisation that calculates the point in each year at which the consumption of resources exceeds their provisioning or renewal potential. It is striking – and deeply disturbing – that the so-called Earth Overshoot Day occurs earlier and earlier each year. According to the network’s calculations, in 1970 global overshoot occurred on 29 December: in 2022, it was reached on 28 July. From that day on, the world’s population lives at the expense of (and accordingly accepts the destruction of) our natural cycles and the well-being of future generations. It is a measure of unsustainability.

In addition to measuring the sustainable behaviour of people and societies, it is also possible to assess the ecological balance of industrially manufactured objects and products, including buildings. Known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), it has in recent years become an increasingly important method for measuring and comparing the ecological impact of products and the built environment. A product life cycle can be considered in different phases: the production (raw material extraction, manufacturing, construction, installation,

3 The Global Climate System: For millions of years, the biosphere as the parts of the earth popu lated by living things has inter acted with the lithosphere and atmosphere in a natural cycle in which the energy exchange with the sun and outer space is the only open system.

Based on: The Natural Step Deutschland, Unsere Lebensgrundlage retten. Die negativen Entwicklungen stoppen. Planegg: Sustainable Growth Associates GmbH, 2016–2020.

16 17

The Cradle-to-Cradle principle differentiates between biologic al and technical cycles that must be considered separately to avoid compromising the circular ity potential of nutrients, goods and products and their corre sponding mechanisms.

Based on: William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Ponit Press, 2002.

Product Use

15 William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press, 2002.

transportation), the use phase (operation and maintenance, including repair and replace ments) and disposal (demolition, transportation, landfill or incineration). LCA examines and quantifies the different impacts on the natural environment over the various phases of the life cycle to provide a reliable basis for assessment and comparison. Aspects of reuse and recycling diverge from the conventional linear “cradle to grave” model, and as such can only be calculated as a potential. LCA methods can certainly also be used to map closed material cycles but it is, unfortunately, difficult to predict – and even more difficult to guarantee –what will actually happen to a product at the end of its service life as currently there is no legal obligation to adopt circular economy principles.

Important in any life cycle assessment is a clear definition of the goal and scope of the analysis: which parameters should be calculated – for example energy demand or consump tion of resources – and for what purposes are they needed? The system boundaries must also be clarified: should the scope include potentials of circular material usage or not, and what assumptions does this entail? The next step is to undertake a life cycle inven tory – identify and quantify all materials and components used, where they originate from, including all emissions and waste resulting from their production, transport and installation – as well as an assessment of the impact that these substances have on humans, natural ecosystems, the climate and global resources (greenhouse effect, toxicity, radiation, land consumption, etc.). The final step is to interpret these findings: even though LCA method ologies are now part of national and international norms, there is no one scientific basis for establishing the results of life cycle assessments across the board as universally valid numerical values, such is the complexity of the specific interactions between the different systems within the levels of consideration.

Another well-known approach within the field of circular thinking was developed in the early 2000s by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and is likewise based on the principle that matter, rather than being consumed, only changes state. In their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,15 the two authors develop a design concept that comprises two closed cycles that should not mix: a biological metabolism that reflects the natural cycle of organic matter in which organic waste becomes a nutrient for new organic

Biological Degradation Biological nutrients Plants Production BIOLOGICAL CYCLE TECHNICAL CYCLE Production Product Use Disassembly Technical nutrients Return

Under current trends

global extraction of materials would double again by 2050

1972 Club of Rome: The Limits to Growth

Agreement of Paris

Over the last five decades, the global extraction of materials has more than tripled.

exponential growth of the global extraction of raw materials between 1900 and 2050.

on: Circle Economy, The circu larity gap report 2021. Amsterdam: Circle Economy, 2021.

growth; and a technical metabolism, in which non-biological products are designed, produced and constructed in a way that is repairable, reconfigurable and fully separable so that they may be used over and over again in new applications. The authors’ principle of “cradle to cradle” stipulates that these two metabolisms be considered and engineered strictly sepa rately from one another. Any transfer from one to the other is tantamount to breaking the cycle and losing the (biological or technical) nutrients circulating in it. The concept conse quently allows for material overuse, since all materials are recovered and returned to their cycles eventually. In this respect, the authors often cite the example of the cherry tree, which produces a million blossoms but only 1,000 cherries, while the withered petals become nutri ents for the production of new blossoms in the following year. Braungart and McDonough also propose a reconfiguration of the responsibilities of producer and consumer. Their hope is that by establishing clear regulatory frameworks for continuous circular economies, a new generation of businesses can emerge that break with the linear economic model of the past and understand waste as nutrients for producing future products.

1900 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2015 2050 Globale
Rohstoffentnahme in Millionen Tonnen (Gt)
2015 COP21:
5 The
Global extraction of raw materials in billion tonnes (Gt) 170-184 7.0 92.1 76.4 53.6 42.9 34.0 27.0 18 19


The sequestering of carbon from the atmosphere in the earth’s crust (lithosphere) began over 350 million years ago through photosynthesis. Since the first industrial age and the more widespread use of fossil fuels, carbon emissions into the at mosphere have increased signif icantly, with far-reaching con sequences for the climate and living conditions in many areas of our planet. Buildings must in future be conceived as carbon sinks, as repositories of reusable biological building materials.

Based on: G. Churkina, A. Organschi, C. P. O. Reyer et al., “Buildings as a global carbon sink”, Nature Sustain ability, 3, 2020, pp. 269–276, https://

with mineral-based materials

with bio-based materials


350 Mya 1750 2020 2050
of carbon stock Extraction of carbon stock
of carbon stock 6


Designing and constructing sustainable buildings requires that one think holistically at a multitude of levels and in multiple arenas: socio-cultural, economic, ecological, functional and aesthetic concerns must be considered alongside local and global factors as equally important aspects that interact with one another. This complexity makes it impossible to offer simple answers and patent remedies, or to propose generally applicable scenarios. Instead, designing and building sustainably is the product of an unbiased, critical view of a specific brief and thus also a personal approach to the challenge – one that draws on empir ical values from one’s own experiments and experience, paired with a broad foundational knowledge of the topics of sustainability.

Building Better – Less – Different aims to provide an overview of the many current topics and issues concerning questions of sustainability from the perspective of building construction. Each volume examines and contrasts two of these topics. This first volume begins by looking at circular construction principles and questions of the circular economy in order to identify commonalities, overlaps, potential learning effects and possibilities but also differences, risks and impossibilities. Together these reveal the complexity of the tasks that lie ahead. Further comparisons planned for future volumes include energy, digitalisa tion, land use or participation, and will help broaden and advance the discourse. The book’s structure offers readings from several perspectives: beginning with the status quo in each topic area, the contributions look at potential means of improvement (efficiency), possible radical departures (sufficiency) and finally complete transformations to an unequivocally circular model of action (consistency). This will be the common thread in each volume of the series, a reminder of what must inevitably happen: informed sustainable action.

20 21


In September 2020, as part of her State of the Union address, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen reiterated the goal to establish a fully circular economy in the EU, as outlined in the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) published in March of that year. She singled out the construction sector as bearing particular responsibility as, according to the Commission, it was responsible for 50 % of primary raw material consumption within the EU in 2019 and for 36 % of solid waste production. The reason for this lies in our current linear model of thinking and economics: raw materials are extracted from natural cycles, turned into goods and products for public consumption and eventually disposed of. This still dominant approach has profound consequences for the planet and is seriously disrupting existing ecosystems. Materials such as sand, copper, zinc or helium will soon no longer be technically, ecologically and economically viable to extract from natural sources. As an alternative to the prevailing destructive pattern of linear raw material consumption, Ursula von der Leyen called for the adoption of closed material loops that are intelligently planned and designed with foresight.

The scale of the problem can be seen in Germany’s own pattern of consumption: The Federal Republic of Germany is a country without abundant raw material resources of its own and accordingly imports some 642 million tonnes (metric tons) of goods every year. The quantity of raw materials consumed, however, is far greater – by a factor of 2.51 – because imported semi-finished and finished goods (i.e., manufactured products) in turn consumed raw materials for their manufacture and processing in the producing countries. The direct material use of the German economy therefore amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes. According to the German Federal Environment Agency this mass of material corresponds in visual terms to an 800 m high, tall and wide cube of concrete. If this were a building, it would be by far the largest building in Germany, dwarfing the currently tallest structure in the country, the Fernsehturm in Berlin, at 368 m. And that every year.

At the same time, the mountain of waste produced in Germany is no less imposing: the gross volume of waste generated in Germany in 2017 amounted to a total of 412 million tonnes,2 of which 53.4 % – or 220.3 million tonnes – was construction and demolition waste (including road debris). The lion’s share (85 %) of that was excavated soil and earth.

These figures from Germany are just one example of how throughout the world we have been building up an unimaginably large anthropogenic material stock, but at the same time have relatively little idea of what to do with this gigantic material depot other than to dump or incinerate it. Put another way: while traditional sources of raw materials are depleting ever faster, our cities have the potential to become material mines for the future. Seen from this perspective, cities are both consumers and suppliers of resources, and can draw on them selves to further their ongoing development. As the New York architect Mitchell Joachim puts it, “the future city would make no distinction between waste and supply.”3

1 In 2015, Germany imported some 355 million tonnes of raw material, 135 million tonnes of semi-finished goods and 152 million tonnes of finished goods. Umweltbundesamt (German Federal Environment Agency), “Inländische Entnahme von Rohstoffen und Materialimporte”, https://www. ressourcen-abfall/rohstoffe-alsressource/inlaendische-entnahmevon-rohstoffen (accessed 28 June 2020).

2 Umweltbundesamt (German Federal Environment Agency), “Ressourcen und Abfall”, https:// ressourcen-abfall/abfallaufkommen# deutschlands-abfall (accessed 28 June 2020).

3 Mitchell Joachim, "City and Re fuse. Self-Reliant Systems and Urban Terrains", in Dirk E. Hebel, Marta H. Wisniewska and Felix Heisel, Building from Waste. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2014, pp. 21–25.

Understanding this anthropogenic stockpile of materials as a momentary instance in a continuous and ongoing cycle of resources represents a radical paradigm shift for the building sector. These “urban mines” have enormous quantitative potential as suppliers of materials. The challenge is to develop new construction methods and technologies to transform these into a new generation of qualitatively sustainable, i.e., ecologically sound, materially separable and economically attractive – because endlessly (re)usable – building materials. Established materials and customary construction principles need to be re-exam ined in the context of a fully continuous circular economy. There are two key prerequisites for this: buildings should be constructed of mono-materials, using construction techniques that are separable and designed for disassembly. Only then can we plan and organise the deconstruction of buildings, and in turn the subsequent reuse or recycling of the materials they contain, in the same way that we currently design and plan their construction.

In this context, mono-materials are comprised of material constituents with the same material properties (even if they are themselves material combinations). The alternative, composites materials consist of two or more materials that have different material proper ties and are bound to each other by adhesives or other irreversible connections. Monomaterials are not mixed, anodised, laminated, coated or otherwise connected to another material with different material properties.

The same applies to circular construction methods and joining techniques. Many mater ials that in terms of their material properties could be considered mono-materials cannot be recycled or reused because they have been contaminated with another substance or installed using a construction technique that is inappropriate for circular construction. Typically this applies to the way materials and products are joined, bonded, sealed, mortared, grouted or mixed in such a way that they cannot be salvaged or reclaimed at high value, unmixed and contaminant-free for renewed use.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the existing built environment is made of precisely such problematic material combinations and construction methods and was neither designed nor built with deconstruction or reuse in mind. In this respect, urban mining is a response to the anthropogenic material depot as an ill-fitting construct where only frag ments of the materials and building elements can be salvaged, and only with the help of the additional input of energy and labour. The principle of circular construction is instead forward-looking and requires all new buildings and conversions to adhere to the aforemen tioned principles of mono-materiality and design for disassembly. Technically speaking, such buildings are then no longer an urban mine from which materials are extracted but a mater ials depot that can be directly reused and recycled in the future.

From an economic perspective, circular principles are opening up new business models that are beginning to disrupt prevailing linear material flows. For example, companies are beginning to switch from selling their products to charging only for their use. After their service time, the materials (which are designed to be easily retrieved) are returned to the companies’ own production cycles. Through far-sighted design and assembly, the product becomes a future source of raw materials. By leveraging circular economy principles, these companies develop new know-how and new technologies and market these innovations. In this change of thinking lies an enormous opportunity to revolutionise the construction sector as well as to open up and develop completely new business areas. The development of new construction principles therefore represents the technological basis for enabling the circular use of raw materials.

Converting the building sector to operate according to circular construction principles requires radically rethinking the way resources are managed in the construction industry and the built environment. Similar to warehousing, the buildings, cities and regions will have to keep track and anticipate the stocks and flows of materials. The goal must be an inventory that documents and communicates (at the right moment) which materials in what quantities and qualities become available for reuse or recycling where and at what time in the future. This has major implications for the design and construction process, for supply and value chains within the construction industry, and for data capture and management – all of which are currently the focus of various global research initiatives.

To understand material flows and enable their incorporation into closed cycles, circular construction requires detailed data sets. The concept of the materials passport emerged in response to this. Broadly speaking, a materials passport is a digital record of all materials, components and products used in a building, including detailed information on quantities, qualities, dimensions and positions of all materials. In addition to such thorough documen tation at the level of the individual building, a further prerequisite for circular resource management at a regional level lies in the standardisation and registration of such passports on a central platform or in official cadastral plans.

The following chapters explain the principles of circular construction according to the sustainability strategies “Better”, “Less” and “Different”, and are intended – along with circular economy principles – to inspire new, possibly unfamiliar but entirely sustainable ways of thinking and acting.

22 23


Following its reintroduction in the West as a heuristic around design, materials manage ment and business models around 2011, the notion of a circular economy has spread across the globe. As it did so, many different descriptions or definitions circulated. Here is one generally useful example by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, accompanied by a schematic displaying the essentials of a “closing of the materials loop”:

“A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources.”1

More than a decade earlier, Braungart and McDonough described several core ideas of today’s understanding of circular economy in their seminal work Cradle to Cradle. These include waste = food, aiming to design out waste and define materials as nutrients for the next pathway (see diagram); a shift to clean energy and renewables; a celebration of diver sity; and the goal to restore and regenerate natural capital.

Other definitions began from the notion of waste management and materials recovery, and aligned with established ideas of resource efficiency. Yet others took the circular economy to be part of some form of corporate social responsibility or as a new greenwashing label. Collating these different notions and concepts – as well as the lessons learned from the past years – we now know what circular economy means in practice, by and large.

Stefano Pascucci and his colleagues summarized their findings on the circular economy (CE) debate “through the following three key propositions:

i. CE gathers the principles of other schools of thought2 and elaborates them in a narrative able to inspire policy actions ii. CE is evoking a socio-technical transition into multiple regimes in which societal and material needs are fulfilled by innovative industrial systems iii. CE contributes to the environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability by means of an eco-effectiveness approach to industrial systems.”3

This summary is thoroughly mainstream, in a sense that it is not going to make anyone shift uncomfortably in their office chairs. It is a familiar sequence from new technologies, very much digitally focussed, which prompt changing business models and feeds back to inno vative product, system and service design. The aim is varied, depending upon who is asking the question. Conventionally it offers something to the client, perhaps owners or managers of buildings – for example in its onward appeal to customers and users, or perhaps through efficiency in terms of lowered costs of labour, materials and energy for maintenance and use. And yet, because it is a design-led systemic approach, when well done, it is challenging to existing custom and practices.

1 https://archive.ellenmacarthur

2 E.g., in addition to Cradle to Cradle: Natural Capitalism, Industrial Ecology, Blue Economy (Pauli), Perfor mance Economy.

3 Massimiliano Borrello, Stefano Pascucci and Luigi Cembalo, “Three Propositions to Unify Circular Economy”, in Sustainability, 12 (10), 2020, Emphasis added.

4 Stephen Jay Gould, “Darwin’s Untimely Burial” (1976), in Alex Rosen berg and Robert Arp (eds.), Philosophy of Biology: An Anthology. John Wiley & Sons, 2009, pp. 99–102.

Pascucci and his colleagues speak of eco-effectiveness, not efficiency, suggesting the shift is also in perspective: effectiveness addresses the purpose of the system in question. What is it for? And part of that inquiry is the question of how the system itself fits the contexts within which it operates. It is an old trope, but Darwin saw evolution as the survival of “that which best fits the system”,4 not as the survival of the fittest – as in defeating the others in the form of a “last one standing”. How could it be otherwise, now that the climate crisis is upon us, as an example of what happens if we ignore encompassing systems?

Equally contextual is the idea of barriers and enablers of change. Economic sectors are shaped by the rules of the game. In the construction sector, building codes and land use zoning are everyday familiarities. But strong impacts may also result from changes in the value of land or the fiscal regime. Some form of carbon fee and dividend may be in the pipeline and sharply volatile energy prices are already the norm – as is the notion that waste management needs to be replaced with materials management and the obligation to know exactly what elements constitute a building or infrastructure in play.

Regeneration by natural environment




Regeneration by industrial processes

Harvest of bio-based resources for Biosphere and Technosphere


Harvest Mining

Stock management products safe for humans and nature

Cascading use


Renewable flow management products safe for humans and nature SALES, SERVICE AND DISTRIBUTION USE, CONSUMPTION AND COLLECTION

Up-cycle Re-cycle Re-furbish Re-manufacture Re-use Re-pair

Share Maintain


The butterfly diagram repre sents a powerful and holistic view of the main assumptions driving the shift towards a cir cular economy, the proposed changes and the range of solu tions that facilitate the tran sition.

Based on: Growth within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Eu rope, 2015. – Ellen MacArthur Founda tion and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, and EPEA – Part of Drees & Sommer.

NO WASTE 24 25


Circular Wooden Cathedral

The headquarters of Triodos Bank in Driebergen-Rijsenburg, The Netherlands, one of Europe’s leading ethical banks, was designed with the ambition to create a dynamic balance between nature, culture and economy, reflecting the norms and values of the bank. The building is the world’s first office building to follow the concept of “design for disassembly”, with a structure above ground made entirely from wood, including its wooden cores. Every element can be reused and is docu mented in a materials passport, effectually turning the building into a material bank. The building is energy positive and blends respectfully into the surrounding nature of the historical estate. The immediate land scape is designed to enhance the biodiver sity of the area.


The five-story, 12,994 m² large building addresses circularity on various levels. It not only includes various aspects of the classical XR-model (rethink, reuse, reduce, recycle, etc.), but extends the notion of circularity from the pure material dimen sion into other dimensions such as energy, water, biodiversity and social impact, striving to give a beneficial contribution to society at large, as described in the following paragraphs.


On the material level the building is designed to be fully demountable. The entire building, from the ground level upwards, consist of a unique wooden construction: 338 standardized wooden elements, wooden floors, wooden shafts and wooden columns are held together with 165,312 screws to form three towers of up to five stories. If the company ever needs to relocate, or if the office closes, all of the components can be easily disas sembled and reused. The building contains 1,615 m³ of laminated wood, more than 1,000 m³ of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and 5 original tree trunks. The wood, used in both the furniture and the floors, mostly comes from the estate. Only the basement has a concrete structure necessitated by the need for water management.


RAU Architects define a circular building as a temporary placement of products, compo nents and materials with a documented identity. The origin and planned reuse of all products, components and materials are carefully documented in a materials passport and registered in Madaster, an online database for material used in the built environment (see p. 118). A digital record of the building has been established which lists every material, component and product used in the building. This allows for different parts to be easily recovered and reused in the future, turning the Triodos Bank building literally into a digitally transparent material depot. The building will even be a material bank: the financial residual value of mate rials used in the building is being made accountable.


The building has an open floor plan arranged around three wooden shafts and flexible drywall system. This provides maximum flex ibility to reconfigure the building over the course of the years and adapt it to changing spatial needs of the bank or even a new user without destroying any material.


While the design focused on maximizing reuse of material in the future, the building also made use of recycled materials or existing construction materials harvested from demolition projects through a special cooperation with the Dutch Urban Mining Collective. About 10,000 m² of reused drywall was integrated into the flexible wall structure. The sunscreens for the canteen were partly made from recycled ocean plastic. Wooden beams which formerly served in a building in Rotterdam were used after the nails were removed by employees of a social work initiative.


A large part of the building was prefab ricated and assembled on site. It was constructed within 13 months, five months faster than it would have taken using tradi tional methods for a building of a similar scale. This allowed for just-in-time delivery, minimizing the space needed for construc


1 The form of the building and its glazed facades allow ample daylight into the interior and afford the staff not just expan sive views outdoors but also a sense of being immersed in the landscape.

108 109

2 ↗

A staircase in the middle of the building’s timber core. Its design and the production of materials draw inspiration from the structures of nature.

3 →

The unique ribbed structure of the timber ceilings recalls the gills of a mushroom, further underlining the building’s relationship to nature.

4 ↓

Some 3,300 m² of solar panels on the roof of the car park pro vide the building with energy as well as 120 bi-directional charging points for electric and hybrid vehicles.


tion and storage, thereby reducing pressure on the sensitive natural environment of the estate and reducing construction cost. The use of prefabricated elements also signifi cantly contributed to minimizing construc tion waste and costs associated with errors. A thorough sorting system allowed for the high-quality reuse of excess materials. The choice of materials and building solutions aimed to maximize the lifespan of products while minimizing maintenance, by applying a 40 year time horizon for the total cost of ownership (TCO). Lastly, due to the choice of wood, the building captures 1,612,000 kg of CO₂, more than was emitted during its fabrication and construction, making it one of the first carbon negative office buildings in the world in this size.


Due to the use of solar panels in combi nation with two underground heat/cold storage systems, the building is energy-pos itive. The parking site is equipped with one of the world’s largest bi-directional charging stations, which is used as energy buffer for the building.


The building was designed to respect and enhance the surrounding nature of the forested preserve: the shape of the building was modelled according to the flight of bats living in the area. The facade provides nesting space for birds, bats and insects and its relief surface prevents birds and bats from loosing their orientation. A green roof captures rainwater for flushing toilets, cools the building in the summer and provides space for insects and birds. The landscape design focused on strengthening the bio diversity in the area by creating a variety of ponds, biotopes and woodlands to provide

Further Reading

food and shelter for animals living in the area. A historical vegetable garden provides food for the canteen of the bank.


The composition of the building strengthens the relation between nature and the people working in the building. Its glass facades ensure maximum natural light penetration and a magnificent view of the estate so that all employees work not only on but also in the estate. The building is designed without any “rear” side, providing evenly attractive working space at every place in every part of the building. The building design also stimu lates resource-efficient behaviour: the spiral staircases in the voids connecting the floors form open spaces which stimulate the use of the staircases in a natural way. Changing rooms and showers encourage commuters to bike, and the site is near a train station. Health and wellbeing were guiding princi ples for the choice of natural materials in the building and the interior design.


Circularity is only a means to an end: a healthy, flourishing society on a healthy, flourishing planet; implying that an atti tude of long-term responsibility needs to be established in every (economic) activity. The guiding principle for the development of the building can be summarized by the word stewardship. By realizing the building, Triodos Bank became a steward not only for the materials used in the building but also for the natural estate surrounding it. Together with the building design, which focused on the long-term preservation of all materials, water and nature involved, a concept for the long-term economic stability of the historic estate was developed in which the building plays a vital part.

▶ Deconstruction, “The Case for Deconstruction”, p. 32

▶ Biodiversity, “Ecology Must Have Priority!”, p. 102

▶ Users, “The Urban Village Project”, p. 122

110 111


The green roofs provide a hab itat for insects; the building’s form is informed by the flight path of bats; and ponds were created in the landscaping to at tract larger and smaller animals.


The building is embedded in its surroundings. The planting is intended as a habitat for local insects.



Materials Passport of Building

All elements and materials applied in the building are described in a report, which gives information about resources, emission rates, origin, connections and applicable certificates



The wooden structure is utlizing dry connections only, e. g. 165,321 screws, so that all parts can be demounted

FLEXIBLE Flexible Interior Walls

To provide interior flexi bility, all interior walls are constructed in such a way that they can be replaced or removed

Flexible Floor Walls

The floor ist constructed in such a way that it can be demounted


Materials Passport of Terrain

All elements and ma terials







connec tions









applied on the terrain are
in a report,
about re sources, emission rates, origin, connections and applicable certificates
steel structure cov ering the parking places is utlizing dry
only, so
parts of the structure can
of Seating The park benches were repurposed from other Triodos Bank properties
wooden beams used in the restaurant are reused from other buildings
of Pavement Stones from the con struction site were repurposed as pave ment BUILDING SURROUNDINGS 7 Cross-section of the
Bank showing the principles of circularity. PROJECT DETAILS Client Triodos Bank N. V. Architects RAU Architects Lead Architects Thomas Rau, Erik Mulder, Dennis Grotenboer, Michael Noordam Landscape Arcadis Interior Ex Interiors Area 12,994 m² Year 2019 112 113


Case Study by EFFEKT

The Urban Village Project presents a vision for how to design, build and share our future homes, neighborhoods and cities as based on the principles of circular construc tion and shared equity. The aim is to tackle some of the urgent challenges related to human development, while creating more livable, affordable and sustainable homes for the many.

Cities all around the world are facing major challenges when it comes to rapid urbanization, aging populations, loneliness, climate change and lack of affordable hous ing. Rising costs due to labor and material shortages have cut into the margins of real estate projects, driving developers to focus on luxury units, which can turn a higher profit. This has resulted in a global housing affordability crisis, triggered by an increase in real estate prices that has outpaced wage growth in many urban centers around the world.1

Considering these challenges, it is esti mated that by 2025 as many as 1.6 billion people around the world could lack access to affordable, adequate and secure housing.2 With the global building stock expected to double by 2050,3 it is necessary to rethink the way housing is planned, built and fi nanced, to ensure greater equity, quality and affordability within the built environment.

At the core of the project is a building system designed with material cascades in mind, prioritizing the reuse of technical components to maintain resources at their highest potential value.

1 S. Wetzstein, “The global urban housing affordability crisis”, Urban Studies, 54 (14), 2017, pp. 3159–3177.

2 R. King, M. Orloff, T. Virsilas and T. Pande, “Confronting the urban housing crisis in the global south: ade quate, secure, and affordable housing”, World Resources Institute Working Paper, 2017.

3 T. Abergel, J. Dulac, I. Hamilton, M. Jordan and A. Pradeep, Global Status Report for Buildings and Con struction—Towards a Zero-Emissions, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector. United Nations Environment Programme, 2019.

4 J. Woetzel, S. Ram, J. Mischke, N. Garemo and S. Sankhe, A Blue print for Addressing the Global Affordable Housing Challenge. New York: McKinsey Global Institute, 2014.

5 J. Woetzel, S. Ram, J. Mischke, N. Garemo and S. Sankhe, Tackling the world’s affordable housing challenge. McKinsey Global Institute, 2014.

At the intersection of these pressing boundaries, EFFEKT believe The Urban Vil lage Project offers a new model for design ing, building and sharing our future homes, neighborhoods and cities in order to improve quality of life. Based on the idea of “Home as a Service”, the project is built on three main pillars:

1. A modular timber-based building sys tem that can be prefabricated, flat-packed and disassembled, ensuring a circular ap proach to the management and life cycle of future buildings.

2. A new financial model that offers a lower entry point into the housing market through subscription-based financing, allow ing homeowners to build equity as and when they can afford it.

3. Cross-generational shared living com munities with access to flexible, high-quality homes and a variety of shared services and facilities that optimize resource use and im prove the quality of everyday life.

As the traditional “design-bid-build” construction process struggles to provide efficient solutions to the global housing cri sis, the project looks towards prefabrication to speed up supply and reduce costs. The Urban Village Project is therefore based on a modular system that can be built off-site, flat-packed and easily assembled on location in a matter of days without the use of heavy machinery. Making use of more efficient construction methods, such as prefabrica tion, and shifting towards a systematized supply chain could lower project costs by up to 30 % and speed up delivery times by up to 50 %.4 The modular building system enables a range of living units that can be configured and adapted to different urban settings and family typologies. The various building com ponents were designed and grouped into shearing layers according to their functions and expected lifespans, to ensure a circular supply chain where materials can be reused and replaced through take-back schemes. The use of materials passports ensures the traceability of each building component, making it easier to maintain, refurbish and reconfigure the different parts of the build ing throughout its lifetime. This strategy draws on the many benefits of building in wood to ensure cost-effectiveness, versa tility, carbon sequestration and biophilic qualities. Combining a timber beam-andcolumn structure with prefabricated build ing components enables a high degree of adaptability and ensures that the system can be used to build everything from town houses to high-rises.

The project's building system is key not only to its environmental performance, but also to securing affordability through a new subscription-based financing model. Unlike other sectors of the economy, residential housing is generally still being built and sold the same way it was 50 years ago.5 The developer model most common today is based on the speculation that by the time the project is finished, suitable buyers or leasers will appear, if market conditions are favorable. The little interaction between de


veloper and end user creates a huge divide between supply and demand, further esca lating the affordable housing gap. In con trast, The Urban Village Project proposes a circular economic model based on shared equity, a new form of home ownership that enables members to receive equity shares in return for their investment. The idea is that homeowners buy what they can at the time of purchase and rent the rest. This means lower down payments, allowing members to build equity as and when they can afford it. The shared equity model allows costs to be spread across the housing community’s members according to their ability to pay: more affluent households can buy more

equity shares, making other homes in the community more affordable for households on modest incomes. When a member leaves, they can sell their equity shares, releasing the capital to buy a home elsewhere. The Urban Village Project’s shared equity model is supported by a digital platform which allows homeowners to keep track of their monthly costs and investments, as well as their consumption patterns over time. This fosters a high degree of financial flexibili ty for the end user and a more diversified portfolio for investors, thus mitigating risk for both parties.

The project looks at how we can create more desirable neighborhoods by unlocking


The Urban Village Project is a vision for creating shared living communities for people of all ages, backgrounds and living situations.

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DIFFERENT 3 The Urban Village Project also seeks to make life more afforda ble by enabling people to share more, pool resources and unlock better deals on daily needs. 2 Building with sustainably sourced timber enables CO₂ reductions, faster construction, minimized waste and a healthier indoor climate. Tool Shed Mini Market Public Gardens Waste Management Family Co-Living Work/Live Energy Production Media Room Couple Multigenerational SingleExtended Family Car Sharing Single Parent Fitness/Gym Playscape Maker Space Cafe Shared Kitchen E-bike Station Waterscape Sensory Gardens Divorced Living Shared Living Room Laundry Allotments Gardens Storage Farm Health Clinic Event Space Extraction Prefabrication Delivery Assembly Ready Home URBAN VILLAGE

4 A modular building system that can be prefabricated, flatpacked and even disassembled ensures a circular approach to the management and life cycle of our buildings.

5 The project is based on a mod ular grid system that allows a highly adaptable program dis tribution.

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the multiple benefits of living in a tight-knit community. It proposes to establish multi generational living communities that com bine private living with shared spaces. The Urban Village Project’s modular design al lows residents to choose from a wide range of living units and customize their floor plan. As needs change, floor plans can be adapted over time, thanks to flexible walls

and adaptable furniture. The community benefits from a wide range of shared services that offer easy access to everything one requires on a daily basis: day care, shared mobility, communal dining, coworking spaces, health care, urban gardening or a gym. The sharing of resources, in its material and monetary sense, enhances social interaction within the village.

Urban Mining and Recycling (UMAR) Unit”, p.


of a Circular Economy”,

6 The Urban Village Project enhances sustainable living through integrated solutions like water harvesting, clean en ergy production, recycling, local food production and localized composting Further Reading ▶ Prefabricated modular construction, “The
142 ▶ Construction layers, “The Economy of Urban
p. 80 ▶ Communal ownership, “Principles
p. 24

7 Many facilities and services –like day care, urban farming, communal dining, fitness and transportation – are shared among the dwellers, enabling a better everyday life through the multiple benefits of living in a tight-knit community.

126 127


First of all, we would like to thank all the authors of this book: Ken Webster, Gretchen Worth, Anthea Fernandes, Jennifer S. Minner, Chris tine O’Malley, Allexxus FarleyThomas, Kerstin Müller, Andrew Roblee, Mark Milstein, Diane Cohen, Robin Elliott, Shawn Wood, Philippe Block, Anja Rosen, Annette Hille brandt, Joshua R. Gassman, RAU Architects, Dominik Campanella, Sabine Rau-Oberhuber, EFFEKT, Dave Mackerness and Erin Meezan. Without their readiness to share their convictions, appeals, visions, activities, research and findings, this book and the discourse it has given rise to would not have been possible. Our thanks go also to both teams at KIT in Karlsruhe and Cornell University in Ithaca: Elena Boermann, Katharina Blümke, Daniel Lenz, Sebastian Kreiter and Damun Jawanrudi for their tireless work in drawing and improving the graphics, editing and correcting the texts and ongoing consultation with our authors. We would like to thank our universities, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT and Cornell College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, and their departments of architec ture for their continued motivation and support. And a special thank you to our editor Andreas Müller and Birkhäuser Verlag as well as the graphic designer of this book, Tom Unverzagt, for their trust, passion and outstanding creativity.


Felix Heisel is an architect working towards the systematic redesign of the built environment as a material depot in a continuous cycle of use and reconfiguration. He is an Assis tant Professor at the Department of Architecture at Cornell Univer sity’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, where he directs the Circular Construction Lab. Heisel is one of the founding partners of the Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development (CR0WD) network in New York State, as well as a founding partner of 2hs Architek ten und Ingenieur PartGmbB Hebel Heisel Schlesier, Germany, an office specializing in the development of circular prototypologies. He has received various awards for his work and published numerous books and articles on the topic, including Urban Mining und kreislaufgerechtes Bauen (“Urban Mining and Circular Construction”) (Fraunhofer IRB, 2021, with Dirk E. Hebel), Cultivated Building Materials (Birkhäuser, 2017, with Dirk E. Hebel) and Build ing from Waste (Birkhäuser, 2014, with Dirk E. Hebel and Marta H. Wisniewska). Felix Heisel graduated from Berlin University of the Arts and has taught and researched at universities around the world, in cluding the Berlage Institute, the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction, and City Development, the Future Cities La boratory, Singapore, ETH Zurich, and Harvard GSD.

Dirk E. Hebel is Professor of Sus tainable Construction and the Dean of the Department of Archi tecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany. He is the author of numerous book pub lications, including most recently Urban Mining und kreislaufgerechtes Bauen (“Urban Mining and Circular Construction”) (Fraunhofer IRB, 2021, with Felix Heisel). He is co-founder and partner of 2hs Architekten und Ingenieur Part GmbB Hebel Heisel Schlesier, prac ticing architecture with a focus on resource-respectful construction methods and materials. His work has been shown in numerous exhi bitions worldwide, most recently in Plastic: Remaking our world, Vitra Design Museum Weil am Rhein (2022) and Environmental Hangover by Pedro Wirz (both with Nazanin Saeidi, Alireza Javadian,

Sandra Böhm and Elena Boerman), Kunsthalle Basel (2022), as well as Sorge um den Bestand, BDA, Ber lin and other venues, (2020–). As Faculty Advisor together with Prof. Andreas Wagner, he won the first Solar Decathlon Competition 2022 held in Germany (Wuppertal) as part of the RoofKIT team (Regina Gebauer and Nicolas Carbonare).

Ken Webster is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University and was for merly Head of Innovation at the El len MacArthur Foundation. His book The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows (Ellen MacArthur, 2nd edition 2017) relates the connections be tween systems thinking, economic and business opportunity and the transition to a circular economy. He is on the Club of Rome‘s Transfor mational Economics Commission and a contributing author to Earth For All (2022). He makes regular in puts to conferences, workshops and seminars around the world.

Philippe Block is Professor at the Institute of Technology in Archi tecture at ETH Zurich, where he co-directs the Block Research Group (BRG) together with Dr. Tom Van Mele. He is Director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Digital Fab rication and founding partner of Foreign Engineering. Philippe Block studied architecture and structural engineering at the VUB, Belgium, and at MIT, USA, where he earned his PhD in 2009. His research at the BRG focuses on computational form finding and the optimisation and construction of curved surface structures, specialising in unrein forced masonry vaults and concrete shells.

Dominik Campanella is a co-founder of Concular and restado. Concular is a digital platform for circular con struction, and restado is the largest marketplace for reclaimed materials in Europe. He holds a Bachelor in Computer Science (University of Mannheim) and Master in Man agement (HEC Paris). After several years working for Google in various positions and countries, he founded Concular in 2020. Dominik Campa nella is a member of the Leadership Group of the EU Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform and the Ex pert Pool for Circular Construction of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB).

Diane Cohen is Executive Director of Finger Lakes ReUse, Inc., a nonprof it 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2007 to help reduce waste and reinvest value back into the commu nity, and has been working in used material management since 2001. In 2021, Diane Cohen received the Lifetime Achievement Award from NYSAR³ (New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling). Finger Lakes ReUse has received several additional honors, including the New York State Environmental Excellence Award, the Environmen tal Champion Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ithaca Journal’s “Best of the Best” Readers’ Choice Award for Best Department Store.

EFFEKT is a research-based, multidisciplinary architecture and planning office based in Copenha gen, Denmark. The company was established in 2007 and currently employs 55 full-time staff under the creative direction of the two co-founding partners, Tue Foged and Sinus Lynge. EFFEKT is the Dan ish word for “impact”, and describes the studio’s conviction that archi tecture and urbanism must have a lasting positive impact on our sur roundings and our planet. In recent years, EFFEKT has distinguished themselves on both the national and international architecture scene through several prestigious and award-winning projects, such as the Camp Adventure Forest Tower, the Urban Village Project, GAME Street mekka Viborg, ReGen Villages as well as some of Denmark’s largest urban planning projects, Rosenhøj, Gellerup and Vinge.

Robin Elliott, based in Ithaca, New York, USA, has worked at Finger Lakes ReUse since 2016. In her current role as Associate Director at Finger Lakes ReUse she works primarily in fundraising, communi cations and community programs. Robin is passionate about all things relating to equity as a paradigm for a more sustainable future.

Allexxus Farley-Thomas graduated from the Master of Architecture program at Cornell University in 2021. During her degree program she was a Research Assistant in the Robotic Construction Lab and a Shop Assistant specializing in workflow and tools for the 6-axis robots. After graduating she spent six months as a Research Associate

154 155

in the Circular Construction Lab, focusing on emerging trends in architecture, construction, engi neering and robotic fabrication for material reuse. She is currently an Architectural Designer with ongoing research in fabrication and data science for building new databases related to the circular economy.

Anthea Fernandes is an urban planner who engages with commu nities, city and state agencies in the USA to develop mobility planning studies, urban design strategies and street infrastructure to make neighborhoods livable and resilient. Her goal is to make places safe and inclusive through design and community mobilization. Anthea Fernandes received a Master of Regional Planning with a Minor in Historic Preservation from Cornell University. During her studies, she received the Alan Black Transporta tion-Related Grant at Cornell Uni versity (2020/2021) for her research on gendered experiences, mobility and safety in public spaces, as well as the New York Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) Outstanding Student Project Award in 2021. Drawing from her training in architecture and his toric preservation, Anthea became involved with Just Places Lab and CR0WD at Cornell University.

Joshua Gassman, RA, LEED AP BD+C, is a Principal and Sustainable Design Director at Lord Aeck Sar gent Planning and Design located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. His practice is dedicated to the holistic execu tion of complex, sustainably focused projects. With a broad portfolio of diverse clients, his career has been centered on technically challenging projects with large, multifaceted consultant teams. He has extensive knowledge of the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental De sign (LEED) System, as well as ILFI’s Living Building Challenge (LBC).

Joshua Gassman has degrees from Arizona State University and from Washington University in St. Louis. He is a LEED-accredited profes sional (BD+C), a NCARB Certificate Holder and member of professional organizations, including AIA Atlanta Committee on the Environment, Georgia Solar Energy Association, Southface Energy Institute, I²SL (In ternational Institute for Sustainable Laboratories), USGBC and the Inter national Living Future Institute. He sits on the Board of Directors of the

Georgia Audubon and is the Co-Vice President of the Georgia Chapter of I²SL.

Annette Hillebrandt has been a freelance architect since 1994 and, after holding Professorships in Kaiserslautern and Münster (since 2001), is now the holder of the Pro fessorship of Building Construction | Design | Materials Science at the University of Wuppertal. As part ner in planning offices in Cologne she has received several awards for her buildings. In addition to memberships in design assurance committees and prize juries, she has been involved in the Expert Pool “Rückbau- und Recyclingfreundlich keit” (Deconstruction and Recycling Friendliness) of the German Sus tainable Building Council (DGNB) since its inception. In 2015, she re ceived the Urban Mining Award and 2020 the Hans Sauer Award for her commitment. Annette Hillebrandt researches and publishes on circula tion potentials in building construc tion (www.urban-mining-design. de; Manual of Recycling, Edition DETAIL, 2019) and is the initiator of a publicly accessible information platform for building materials (, since 2010) and co-initiator of a nation wide student competition (www., since 2018). She is a founding member of the “Bauhaus Earth Initiative”, a member of the High-level Workshop on Research and Innovation for the “New European Bauhaus” and of the Sustainable Building Commission at the German Environment Agency (KNBau am Umweltbundesamt, since 2022).

Dave Mackerness leads the Cus tomer Success Team at Kaer Pte Ltd, where he is responsible for deliver ing Kaer’s brand experience across their regional “air-conditioning as a service” portfolio. With a back ground in consumer marketing and over ten years of experience in the building industry, he specialises in customer insights that drive Kaer’s product development roadmap and customer engagement platform. As an advocate of the circular economy and the “product-as-a-service” busi ness model, Dave Mackerness reg ularly shares experiences with large multinational companies and startups that are looking to transition to this disruptive business model.

Erin Meezan is a sustainability leader and keynote speaker on sustainable business, climate and the decarbonization of the built environment. She has more than 20 years of experience leading sustain ability strategy at Interface, Inc., and is currently Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer. At Inter face, she leads a global team that provides technical assistance and support to the company’s global business, addressing sustainability at all levels. She is also focused on creating a path for Interface and others to reverse global warming as part of the company’s current sustainability mission, Climate Take Back™.

Mark Milstein is Clinical Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enter prise at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. He conducts applied research in and oversees the Center’s work on market and enter prise creation, business develop ment, clean technology commercial ization, and sustainable finance. Dr. Milstein specializes in framing the world’s social and environmental challenges as unmet market needs which can be addressed effectively by the private sector through inno vation and entrepreneurship, there by allowing companies to achieve financial success by creatively ad dressing problems such as climate change, ecosystem degradation and poverty. He has received funding from the National Science Founda tion, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun dation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank and others, and has worked with more than 100 firms across a range of industries, includ ing renewable energy and carbon markets, life sciences and sustain able agriculture, as well as finance and international development.

Jennifer S. Minner is an Associate Professor at the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Dr. Minner directs the Just Places Lab, an interdisciplinary platform for research and creative action centered on community memory, public imagination and the socially just care of places. Her re search and teaching focuses on land use and spatial planning methods, historic preservation and the reuse of buildings and building materials, and equitable urban development and creative place-making. She is

one of the founding partners within the Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development (CR0WD) net work. Jennifer Minner is National Conference Chair for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Plan ning Association

Kerstin Müller, Dipl.-Ing. Architek tin, studied architecture at the University of Stuttgart and at the École d’architecture de Lyon. After working internationally for several years as an architect in Vancouver and Vienna, she joined the construc tion office in situ in Basel in 2013, where she has managed multiple reuse projects. In 2019, she joined the management of baubüro in situ ag and in 2020 became managing director of zirkular gmbh, Basel/ Zurich, specialists in designing for circular economy and reuse in construction. At zirkular, she steers the company’s conceptual direction and communicates their reuse projects in public. She is on the board of the association Cirkla, Switzerland, which promotes the reuse of building components. For the German Chamber of Architects, she sits on the climate advisory board of the city of Lörrach and is a member of Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Architects’ “Climate Energy Sustainability” strategy group. In 2022/2023, she took up a visiting professorship funded by Sto-Stiftung at the KIT Department of Architecture in Karlsruhe on the topic of “Sustainable Materials for a New Architectural Practice – Enter ing a Circular Economy”.

Christine O’Malley works for His toric Ithaca. Her responsibilities include preservation services and research, and she leads the or ganization’s efforts in education, advocacy, and community engage ment. She has completed successful local designations of properties and National Register nominations. Christine O’Malley is a former board member of the Vernacular Architec ture Forum and has presented pa pers at several national conferences and symposia on various topics re lated to preservation, reuse and the history of American architecture. As part of the CR0WD (Circularity, Re use, and Zero Waste Development) network, she participates in ongoing efforts to promote salvage, decon struction and sustainability.

RAU Architects/Thomas Rau is an architect, entrepreneur, innovator and recognized thought leader on sustainability and circular economy. His office RAU has been recognized for being at the forefront of pro ducing innovative CO2-neutral, en ergy-positive and circular buildings as a norm. Thomas Rau was elected as Dutch Architect of the Year 2013 and awarded the ARC13 Oeuvre Award for his widespread contribu tion in both promoting and realizing sustainable architecture and raising awareness of the circular economy through international lectures, TV documentaries, TED Talks and pub lications. In 2016 he was nominated for the Circular Economy Leadership Award of the World Economic Fo rum. He received the Circular Hero Award 2021 from the Dutch ministry responsible for the circular economy for his vigorous and groundbreak ing work on establishing a circular economy.

Sabine Rau-Oberhuber is an econo mist and Director of Turntoo, found ed in 2010 as the first company in the Netherlands with the mission to achieve a circular economy. Turntoo works with manufacturers and consults with clients to facil itate new processes and methods that reduce or eliminate material waste. The company also assists municipalities on circular city strat egies and regional development planning. Turntoo sees the need for necessary transformations on four levels: the design of products and supply chains, the financial and business models involved, the data and IT infrastructure supporting the transition, and the mental trans formation leading to a new way of thinking. Turntoo’s multidisciplinary team works with clients that wish to transform to a regenerative model. Together with Thomas Rau, Sabine Rau-Oberhuber co-authored the book Material Matters (Bertram + de Leeuw Uitgevers BV, 2016), which dissects and critiques our current linear systems of production, con sumption and waste, proposing a new economic paradigm to radically change the status quo.

Andrew Roblee is the President of Roblee Historic Preservation, LLC, and has had extensive training in historic preservation planning and the evaluation of historic resources. Before receiving his MA in Historic Preservation Planning at Cornell University, he worked for ten years

in the construction trades, a source of pride which complements and en hances his understanding of building systems and historic preservation. His study of history and his deep interest in the trades and building systems led him naturally down the path to historic preservation, and he has lectured on historic preservation and environmental sustainability throughout New York State. Andrew Roblee is the current President of the Preservation Association of Central New York (PACNY), and is a founding partner of the Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development (CR0WD) network.

Anja Rosen is an architect and, as managing director of energum GmbH (agn Group), developed the urban mining concept for Korbach town hall. In 2022, she founded C5 GmbH in Münster together with Frauke Kaven. She completed her doctorate on the “Urban Mining In dex” at the University of Wuppertal (BUW) in 2020 and was appointed Honorary Professor for Circular Con struction there in 2021. Dr. Rosen is a founding member of the re!Source Stiftung e.V. and also an active member of the DGNB, campaigning for a change in the approach to re sources in the construction industry. She has received several awards for her work: in 2021, for example, she won the DGNB Sustainability Chal lenge for her research on the Urban Mining Index, and in 2020, the Manual of Recycling (Edition Detail, 2019), which she co-authored, was awarded the Hans Sauer Award.

Shawn Wood is a Construction Waste Specialist with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. He studied archi tecture, landscape architecture and urban planning at Virginia Tech and has more than 25 years of planning and development-related experience in regional and local government, as well as the private sector. For the past eight years, Shawn Wood’s work has focused on developing and implementing deconstruction and building mate rial reuse policy and advising other governments and organizations as they pursue similar work to reduce embodied carbon in the built envi ronment.

Gretchen Worth is the Project Director of the Susan Christopher son Center for Community Planning, which works with New York State

communities to support efforts to achieve a more equitable, cli mate-resilient built environment. The Christopherson Center is one of the founding partners of the CR0WD (Circularity, Reuse, Zero Waste Development) network.


Arcadis landschapsarchitectuur, Timo Cents 110: 4

ARGE agn – heimspiel architekten 82: 3; 86: 12; 87: 13; 88: 14

baubüro in situ 45: 2

Block Research Group 75: 4

Elena Boerman, Sebastian Kreiter, Tom Unverzagt 14: 1; 15: 2; 17: 3; 18: 4; 19: 5; 20: 6; 25: 1

Zooey Braun 143: 1; 144: 2; 148: 10; 149: 11, 12; 150: 13; 151: 14; 152: 16, 17

Christina Bronowski 45: 3

Jan Brütting, SwissGrid AG 45: 1

Sean Campbell, Robyn Wishna, Robin Elliott, Diane Cohen 57: 1; 58: 2; 59: 3, 4; 60: 5, 6, 7

Concular/Thomas Jones 115: 1; 116: 2, 3, 4, 5; 117: 6, 7

EFFEKT 123: 1; 124: 2, 3; 125: 4, 5; 126: 6; 127: 7

Empa 151: 15

Allexxus Farley-Thomas, Circular Construction Lab 40: 4

Anthea Fernandes, Just Places Lab: 33: 1; 34: 2; 35: 3

Good Wood 65: 5

Felix Heisel 36: 4, 5; 41: 5, 6; 42: 7, 8; 121: 3, 4; 147: 8 (with Laura Mrosla); 9 (with Sara Schäfer)

Jonathan Hillyer 106: 3; 107: 4, 5, 6 incremental3D 74: 2

Jason Koski, Cornell UREL 39: 1, 2; 40: 3; 42: 9

Juney Lee 77: 5

Lord Aeck Sargent and Uzun & Case 105: 1, 2

David Mackerness, Kaer Pte Ltd 131: 1; 132: 2, 3; 133: 4

Madaster: 118: 1; 119: 2

Joseph McGranahan, Circular Construction Lab 42: 10, 11; 43: 12

Jennifer Minner 37: 6 naaro 73: 1

Northwest Deconstruction Specialists 63: 2; 67: 6

Antje Paul 83: 7

Christopher Payne/Esto 134: 1, 2; 135: 3; 137: 4, 5, 6

Portland BPS 62: 1, 64: 3

Preton AG 48: 6 (from Schweizer ische Bauzeitung, 35, 1966)

Rapp Architekten/Lichtbox Basel 46: 4

RAU Architects 113: 7

Matthias Rippmann 75: 3

Anja Rosen 81: 1; 82: 4, 5, 6; 84: 8, 9; 85: 11; 89: 15; 90: 16, 17, 18, 19

Werner Sobek with Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel 145: 3, 4

Structural Exploration Lab, EPFL 49: 8

Christian Thomann, agn 81: 2

Universität Kassel/CESR 85: 10

156 157

Alexander van Berge 109: 1; 110: 3 Ossip van Duivenbode 110: 2; 112: 5, 6

Shawn Wood 65: 4 Wojciech Zawarski 146: 5, 6, 7 Martin Zeller, Basel 50: 9; 51: 10, 11 Zirkular 47: 5; 48: 7


Auken, Ida 138 Bastien-Masse, Maléna 49 Beck, Roger 43 Behrens, William W. III 15 Bennink, Dave 43 Block, Philippe 72–77 Bork, Hans-Rudolf 11 Braungart, Michael 18, 19, 24, 26 Brundtland, Gro Harlem 15 Brütting, Jan 45

Büttgenbach, Simon 153 Campanella, Dominik 114–117 Carlowitz, Carl von 11, 13, 15 Carson, Rachel 12, 13, 15 Churkina, Galina 20 Cohen, Diane 43, 56–61 Cook, James 10 Darwin, Charles 24 Desruelle, Joseph 45 Devènes, Julie 49 Diamond, Jared 11 Earle, Patti 43 Eiklor, Kasey 43 Elliott, Robin 56–61 Erasmus of Rotterdam 118 Farley-Thomas, Allexxus 38–43 Fernandes, Anthea 32–37 Fischer, Reto 153 Fivet, Corentin 45, 49 Forrester, Jay 13 Gassman, Joshua R. 104–107 Grotenboer, Dennis 113 Hannan, Scott 43 Hansen, James E. 93 Hebel, Dirk E. 10–23, 30, 31, 70, 71, 100, 101, 142–153 Heinlein, Frank 153 Heisel, Felix 10–23, 30–43, 70, 71, 100, 101, 142–153 Hillebrandt, Annette 96, 97, 102, 103 Hirigoyen, Julie 26 Holland, Susan 43 Jantsch, Erich 13 Joachim, Mitchell 22 Kaufmann, Matthias 153 King, Alexander 13 Köhler, Bernd 153 Kohnstamm, Max 13 Küpfer, Célia 49 Mackerness, Dave 130–133 Makwana, Rajesh 94 Marchesi, Enrico F. 153 Marsh, Dave 43 McDonough, William 18, 19, 24, 26 Meadows, Dennis L. 13, 15 Meadows, Donella H. 15 Meezan, Erin 134–137 Miller, Daniel H. 93 Milstein, Mark 55, 79, 128, 129 Minner, Jennifer S. 32–37, 43, 52, 53 Mulder, Erik 113 Müller, Kerstin 44–51 Noordam, Michael 113 Novarr, John 43 O’Malley, Christine 32–37

Organschi, Alan 20 Otto, Frei 72 Pascucci, Stefano 24 Payne, Christopher 134, 135, 137 Peccei, Aurelio 13 Randers, Jørgen 15 Rau, Thomas 113 Rau-Oberhuber, Sabine 118–121 Rees, William 16, 17 Reyer, C. P. O. 20 Robert, Karl-Henrik 16 Roblee, Andrew 52, 53 Roggeveen, Jacob 10 Rosen, Anja 80–91 Saint-Geours, Jean 13 Schmitt, Harrison 13 Segal, Paul 94 Senatore, Gennaro 45 Sobek, Werner 142, 153 Stahel, Walter 139, 144 Stone, Gideon 43 Thiemann, Hugo 13 von der Leyen, Ursula 22 Wabbes, Jules 148, 151 Wackernagel, Mathis 16, 17 Webster, Ken 24–27, 92–95, 138, 139 Wood, Shawn 62–67 Worth, Gretchen 32–37, 43


Accademia dei Lincei 13 agn 80, 81

Amstein-Walthert AG 153 Arcadis 113

Architects for Future Germany 102 Arnot Realty 43

Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany 102

Baubüro in situ 46, 47, 49

Bay Area Deconstruction Working Group 37 Beck Equipment 43

Block Research Group (BRG) 73, 74

BNP Paribas Fortis 151

Building Deconstruction Institute 38, 43

CaaS (Cooling as a Service) 130–133 Circle Economy 19

Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) 22

Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development (CR0WD) 32, 35, 37

Club of Rome 13, 19, 30 Concular 114–117

COP21: Agreement of Paris 19 Cornell Einhorn Center 43

Cornell Circular Construction Lab (CCL) 37, 38, 41–43

Cornell Just Places Lab 37, 43 Cornell University 153 Cortland ReUse 37

Deconstruction Advisory Group (DAG) 64, 65

DESSO/Tarkett 152

Dutch Urban Mining Collective 108 Dutch West India Company 10 EFFEKT 122–127

Ellen MacArthur Foundation 24, 25, 73, 138

Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) 142, 143, 153

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) 94

EPEA GmbH – Part of Drees & Sommer 25

EPFL Lausanne 46

ETH Zurich 73

EU Construction Products Regulation 95

European Commission 22 European Green Deal 7 European Union 7, 22, 114

Ex Interiors 113

Federal Building Use Ordinance (BauNVO) 102

Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) 84 Fiat 13

Finger Lakes ReUse 37, 43, 57, 60, 61

Frischbetonwerk Korbach 83

Georgia Institute of Technology 104 Générale de Banque 150

German Committee for Reinforced Concrete (DAfStb) 83

German Federal Environment Agency 22, 95

German Waste Management Act 95

Global Footprint Network 17 heimspiel architekten 80, 81

Historic Ithaca 37, 43 Holcim 73

Ice Nugget 151 incremental3D (in3D) 73

INSEAD Asia Campus 132

Interface 134–137

Interface ReEntry™ Recycling and Reclamation program 134–137

International Monetary Fund (IMF) 92

Ithaca Community ReUse Center (CRC) 56–60

Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency 43

Ithaca Urban Timber Salvage 43 Kaer 130–133

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) 153

Kaufmann Zimmerei und Tischlerei GmbH 153


Kendeda Fund 104

Kyoto Protocol 95 Laborers Local 785 42, 43

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 130

Lifecycle Building Center 106 Lord Aeck Sargent 104 Madaster 118–121

Magna Glaskeramik 151

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 13

McKinsey Center for Business and Environment 25 Miller Hull 104

Norwegian Global Pensions Fund 94 Olivetti 13

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) 65, 66

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 13

Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) 64, 65

Portland ReBuilding Center 62

Preservation Association of Central New York (PACNY) 37

Primeo Energie Kosmos 45, 46, 49, 51

Rapp Architekten 46

RAU Architects 108–113 114

Rotor Deconstruction 151

RWTH Aachen University 116 Significant Elements 37, 43 Skanska USA 104

Susan Christopherson Center for Community Planning 37, 43

Sustainable Growth Associates GmbH 17

Swissgrid 45

The Natural Step Deutschland 17 Tompkins County Climate and Sustainable Energy (CaSE) Advisory Board 35

Trade Design Build 43

Triemli Hospital 47–49

Triodos Bank 108–113

UK Green Building Council 26 United Nations 13, 15

University of Kassel 84 University of Kiel 11

US Department of Housing and Urban Development 33

US Environmental Protection Agency 56, 66

Werner Sobek Group 153

Work Preserve 37

World Commission on Environment and Development 15

World Economic Forum (WEF) 138 Zaha Hadid Architects Computation and Design Group (ZHACODE) 73

Zirkular 46, 47, 49


206 College Avenue 43 24 (TV show) 106

Blue Marble (Schmitt) 13

“Buildings as a global carbon sink” 20

Catherine Commons Deconstruction Project, Ithaca, New York 38–43

Chacona Block building, Ithaca, New York 37

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Diamond) 11 Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (McDonough and Braungart) 18, 24

Deconstruction and Salvage Survey Toolkit (ScanR) 38

ERZ Disposal + Recycling Zurich 47 Georgia Archives building, Atlanta, Georgia 104

Good Wood Showroom, Portland, Oregon 65

Growth within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe (Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment) 25

HiLo, Dübendorf 77 K118 rooftop extension, Winterthur 47, 50

Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, Atlanta, Georgia 104–107

Korbach City Hall Model Project 80–91

Lysbüchel Industrial Estate, Basel 47, 50

Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) 105, 106

NEST building, Dübendorf 142, 143, 145, 146

nora® rubber flooring 134

Ökobilanzdaten im Baubereich, 2009/1 (KBOB) 75

Our Ecological Footprint (Wacker nagel and Rees) 16

Primeo Energie Kosmos Science and Learning Centre, Münchenstein 46

Rampage (movie) 106

Recycling Shed for Primeo, Münchenstein 49, 51

Resource-saving concrete (Rconcrete) 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89

Rippmann Floor System (RFS) 74–77

Silent Spring (Carson) 12

Striatus Bridge, Venice 73, 74 Sylvicultura oeconomica oder haußwirthliche Nachricht und Naturmäßige Anweisung zur wilden Baum Zucht (Carlowitz) 12

Tech Tower, Atlanta, Georgia 104

The Circularity Gap Report 2021 (Circle Economy) 19

The Limits to Growth (Meadows, Meadows, Randers and Behrens III) 15, 19

Unsere Lebensgrundlage retten. Die negativen Entwicklungen stoppen (The Natural Step Deutschland) 17

The Urban Village Project 122–127 Triemli Personalhäuser, Zurich 47, 48, 49

Triodos Bank Headquarters, Drieber gen-Rijsenburg 108–113

Urban Mining and Recycling (UMAR) Unit, Dübendorf 121, 142–153

Urban Mining Index 86–89

Why Fee and Dividend Will Reduce Emissions Faster Than Other Carbon Pricing Policy Options (Miller and Hansen) 93

Zürich – Stadtspital Triemli Personalhäuser – Resource assessment of structural elements (Devènes, BastienMasse, Küpfer and Fivet) 49

158 159


Layout, cover design and typesetting: Tom Unverzagt

Translation from German into English of the texts by Felix Heisel/Dirk E. Hebel, Kerstin Müller, Anja Rosen, Annette Hillebrandt and Dominik Campanella: Julian Reisenberger Editor for the publisher: Andreas Müller

Production: Heike StrempelBevacqua

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This publication is also available as an e-book PDF (978-3-0356-2635-3) and in a German language edition (Print ISBN 978-3-0356-2108-2, e-book PDF 978-3-0356-2634-6).

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