Building Revolutions – Applying the Circular Economy to the Built Environment

Hosted by Argent, David Cheshire launched his new book on the 27th May 2016 at an event chaired by Russell Haydn, with contributions from Mark Edwards, UKGBC, Lydia Dutton, Argent and Jane Wakiwaka, Crown Estates.

Russell welcomed us and introduced Mark, who reminded us that the circular economy is about getting the most out of our resources for the longest time and making waste a thing of the past. He discussed One Planet Living and the impact of construction, currently responsible for a third of all waste.

David kicked off by showing us a slide of a bauxite mine in the Amazon rain forest, reminding us of the destructive processes involved in creating some common materials. He suggested that applying circular economy principles to buildings increased quality and delivered better buildings all round, including aspects such as the indoor environment. David introduced the work of Jouke Post in the Netherlands and told of his visit to Delta Park 20/20 in Rotterdam, which was designed to encourage reuse, be adaptable/ flexible and designed for deconstruction, adopted cradle to cradle, biophilic, with green walls inside the building – and said what an inspiring space it was.

David told us that Jouke was an accountant by training and offered to double the contractor’s profit margin if they could provide complete transparency through the supply chain/ products. He created a budget for each part of the building, with quality and innovation encouraged. This led to the development of a reversible slimline flooring system. Collaboration was key, something it seems the Dutch are much better than the UK industry…David suggested that this building offers better rental returns, easier/lower cost ongoing maintenance, lower cost adaptation and higher residual value.

David then presented slides from the UK of Chobham Manor, the demountable and foundation less marketing suite by our member Jon Baker, now at Nomas, who was in attendance. Please see our website for a case study of this building. David then mentioned the work of Elina Grigoriou, who specialises in reclaiming materials from the film and TV industries.

Next was the Enterprise Centre, built to Passivhaus standard, with a tenth of the embodied carbon of a standard building. Christian Dimbleby, Architype and ASBP Patron was in attendance and reminded us that some of the external cladding was sourced from Iroko desks in the old chemistry labs and the reception was ex-Sainsbury’s. David then introduced us to Polybrick – which are bricks, 3d printed with clay.

David presented some excellent graphics to summarise the application of the circular economy to construction, which are included in his book. I am now the proud owner of a signed copy.

Lydia introduced her work through the UKGBC leader’s programme on the #Loop project. This involves a product passport that contains full product information that can be shared to enable products to be traced, valued and reused. She reminded us that while planning might take 3 years, usually there is just 3 weeks notice to demolish. She highlighted the use of pre-demolition audits, which NFDC are currently updating the guidance. Lydia is part of a team with SEGRO and a team to source funding to develop the idea further. Simon Sturgis was in attendance and mentioned their study on 9 Cambridge Avenue.

Many thanks to Lydia for her kind hosting and to David for an excellent evening.

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